I am bit puzzled over the copyright issued involved in the publication of a cumulative dissertation.

Lets imagine you publish a paper in an Elsevier journal. The process of publication usually requires you to transfer the exclusive copyright to Elsevier. This would basically mean, you are not allowed to publish the paper as part of your cumulative dissertation (e.g. in the repository of your institution).

However I found a multitude of exceptions that allow specifically the publication within the context of a dissertation. Examples:


Theses and dissertations which contain embedded PJAs as part of the formal submission can be posted publicly by the awarding institution with DOI links back to the formal publications on ScienceDirect

Source 2 - FAQ

Can I include/use my article in my thesis/dissertation?

Yes. Authors can include their articles in full or in part in a thesis or dissertation for non-commercial purposes.

Can I use material from my Elsevier journal article within my thesis/dissertation?

As an Elsevier journal author, you have the right to Include the article in a thesis or dissertation (provided that this is not to be published commercially) whether in full or in part, subject to proper acknowledgment; see the Copyright page for more information. No written permission from Elsevier is necessary.

This right extends to the posting of your thesis to your university’s repository provided that if you include the published journal article, it is embedded in your thesis and not separately downloadable.

Also this .PDF by elsevier explicitly allows the use of the published journal article in a dissertation.

So now, this looks to me like it would be okay. However, I also read about that this is usually only allowed after an embargo period of for example 12 month. This would be highly problematic to my time schedule. Also in this document by Elsevier on Hosting Policies there is also an embargo period mentioned.

Does anyone of my fellow PhD students has experience with this issue? Am I supposed to wait now for the 1 year embargo, or would it be permitted to publish an Elsevier article as part of a cumulative dissertation on our institutional repository.

  • In essence, you give them the copyright and they give you back a license as detailed in your Source 2. – Buffy Mar 9 at 19:59
  • Thank you. Do you know if this requires to wait out an embargo period? This is the part which is most confusing to me – Björn Mar 9 at 21:11
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    I think the embargo was intended to apply to a different set of cases (not dissertations), but I haven't read all the pdfs. But if Source 2 nowhere mentions an embargo then I doubt it could apply. You could ask one of the editors, of course. – Buffy Mar 9 at 21:13
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    There are many questions about copyright on this site, but not a hint of anyone running into any sort of trouble for copyright infringement. People generally underestimate their rights, and spend too much time worrying about what is permitted. – Sylvain Ribault Mar 10 at 19:33

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