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Legal aspects to submitting and circulating a thesis: Circulating your thesis

Identifying the legal framework applicable to submitting and circulating your thesis

Circulating authorisations

Like any intellectual work, a thesis cannot be circulated without its author’s permission. If the author does allow for their thesis to circulate, they will need to make sure the following are respected:

  • If the thesis is a collective work, the doctoral student will need a written note of unanimous agreement from all co-authors, before online circulation.

  • If the thesis comprises works that do not belong to it, the doctoral student will need to obtain a circulating authorisation from the authors, whatever the media (picture, printed document, map, musical or audiovisual sample).

However, the pedagogical exception defined by the DADVSI (French law on authors’ rights and related rights in the information society) allows you to use samples from copyrighted works without the explicit consent from the author, provided the use is non-commercial. But this pedagogical exception voted in 2009 does not currently apply. Failing that, it is the sectoral agreements that prevail.

Circulation contract

By default, circulating authorisations are filled in by the doctoral student in the national registration form, during the submission process.

But some universities require that a circulation contract be signed by both parties, detailing the modalities of using and circulating the thesis.

Therefore, although the doctoral student may have their thesis published commercially, the publisher will not be able to offer an exclusivity contract, since there is already a circulation contract signed with the university.

However, being the author, the doctoral student owns the exploitation rights to their work. This enables them to defer circulating their work by imposing an embargo at the time of signing the circulation contract with their university. This embargo allows the student to broker a contract with a possible commercial publisher.

Current regulations

In France, thesis circulation is regulated by the August 7, 2006 decree on submitting, referencing, copying, circulating and keeping theses or works defended for a doctorate, as well as by the French Intellectual Property Code.

Confidentiality of the thesis

Confidentiality may be requested by either the doctoral student themselves or by their jury.

It is up to the person in charge at the university delivering the doctorate qualification to decide whether a thesis should be made confidential, and how long for.

A thesis bearing a clause of confidentiality cannot be circulated, copied or shared during the defined confidentiality period, even if the doctor, as its author, wishes it to be.

Like any thesis defended, it must be referenced in the Sudoc with mention of the existence and duration of the clause of confidentiality.

A thesis deemed non-confidential must be shared at least within the university at which it was defended.