I’m discovering that the ProQuest thesis and dissertation database is full of surprises. Like my dissertation.
As a doctoral student, I had never consulted my alma mater‘s graduate student calendar copyright policy. While it states that the student is the copyright holder of the thesis or dissertation, it also stipulates, “as a condition of engaging in graduate study in the university, [that] the author of a thesis grants certain licences and waivers with respect to the circulation and copying of the thesis.” These licenses are for the university library, naturally, but there’s also one for Library & Archives Canada (LAC), to which the dissertation author grants “a licence to microfilm the thesis under carefully specified conditions” (7).
I didn’t read the fine print of the university’s copyright policy for graduate students, but before I defended, my supervisor made a point of advising me to treat and protect the work as my scholarly capital. And it was in this work that I began researching copyright. So I think I would remember if I was ever briefed on the “carefully specified conditions” of the LAC’s license. I wasn’t.
granted a non-exclusive license allowing Library and Archives Canada to reproduce, publish, archive, preserve, conserve, communicate to the public by telecommunication or on the Internet, loan, distribute and sell theses worldwide, for commercial or non-commercial purposes, in microform, paper, electronic and/or any other formats.
The cover also assures me that – while LAC has just said it can basically do whatever it wants with the work – “the author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis.”
Now, most of this I don’t object to, in principle. I’m fully on board with archiving and preserving. I support LAC as a vital institution serving Canadians’ public interest. And I’m all for open access – not that the ProQuest database itself is open access (though it does make more research more accessible). But I do object to the LAC’s unclearly-got license to sell my work internationally and distribute it “for commercial purposes” – like, say, to this ProQuest database, whose own bottom line the dissertation now gets to gild, with neither my informed consent nor share in any profits.
Not that I would expect the work to yield much of anything in that way. It’s a dissertation, after all – it’s not even a book. (Which suggests an implication for graduates who, unlike Yours Truly, might want to turn their dissertations into books: does ProQuest database availability compromise publish-ability?)
What I object to is the commercial latitude of the LAC’s license, and the opacity of the university policy about this license. None of the protocols of depositing the dissertation with the university involved any “careful specification” of the license I apparently gave to Library & Archives Canada to sell my work.
Graduate Student Calendar. U of Guelph, 2012.