permission needed to replace circulating copies of theses?

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  • Like many universities, writing a thesis or dissertation at our institution is a required component of most graduate degree programs. These documents become permanent records of research once they are completed and several copies must be deposited with the institution. The library receives two copies of the thesis or dissertation--one is a non-circulating archival copy and the other is added to the circulating collection in the open stacks. The copies that become part of the library collection are available to the general public. Our institution also make dissertations available through ProQuest/UMI. Authors retain copyright and may or may not register their works with the Copyright Office.

    Quite a few of the circulating copies of our masters theses have been lost, though the library still retains a non-circulating archival copy. The circulating copies were used frequently and we would like to continue providing them, but are wondering how to proceed.

    Do we need to find the authors and seek their permission to make replacement copies for our circulating collection? Presumably we would use our archival copy as the master. Originally it was a degree requirement to provide the library with these copies, but replacing them may put us in a different situation. We are not making preservation copies and materials in our circulating collection are used by the public outside of the library. No one else holds our masters theses so there is no way to obtain them at any cost. We are also uncertain as to whether these would be considered unpublished or published works under Section 108. Although some lost copies might be in the last 20 years of copyright term, many were authored after 2000.

    We would appreciate learning from other libraries as to how you have handled these situations. Thanks!
  • We routinely make replacement copies for missing circulating theses using the archival copy as a master. I don't think it's something you would need permission for. However, for theses that fall in the grey area of still being in copyright but written before we contracted to provide full text to UMI (and added a clause to this effect to the papers graduate students have to sign), we do seek permission before digitizing.

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