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Web access to the Class of 2013's senior theses was temporarily suspended on Oct. 18 after the Office of the Dean of the College voiced concerns about the lack of adequate copyright protection for the theses, which were made available for downloadby Mudd Library on Oct. 8.

The online theses system is being reevaluated at the request of ODOC, which is working with Mudd and the Office of Information Technology to resolve these concerns, University Archivist and Curator of Public Policy Papers Dan Linke said.

“After we released [the website], there were some people in the Dean of College’s office that had some concerns about the ability to download [the theses] and what that meant in terms of copyright,” Linke said.

“This is just a precautionary step we decided was appropriate to take when it became clear that students, when they would click the view button, would not only see the text but also download a copy of it, perhaps even without their knowing,” Deputy Dean of the College Clayton Marsh ’85 said. “We wanted to be very careful and disable that functionality in order to give us some time to bring together the right people, to make sure that we’ve got [the digital theses system] set up in the right way and there are appropriate copyright notices and protections in place.”

Linke said the temporary suspension of the digitized theses was a policy issue and not a technical issue.

“We’re sort of in a new world here. When you’re dealing with paper and someone asks for a copy, we have a format that’s long-established,” Linke said. “Now we’re moving to a new form, and we want to make sure that the appropriate levels of protections are in place for that as well.”

Marsh and Linke said they are not sure when the online database will allow students to regain access to the online theses.

“It’s unclear how much time it will take for us to work through some of these questions, but we intend to do so as quickly as circumstances will allow,” Marsh said. “We want to make sure we’re taking time and that we’re patient while we iron out some of these wrinkles.”

Linke said he hopes ODOC and Mudd will find a solution reasonably quickly— by the end of this year or early next year.

“What we’re looking to do is get that copyright compliance built into the online system,” Linke explained, adding that he, Marsh and representatives from OIT met last week to discuss possible copyright protection measures that can be implemented as quickly as possible.

One suggestion, according to Marsh, is toattach a permanent copyright notice to the theses.Through measures such as this, Marsh said the group hopes to find ways to ensure users understand and appreciate the limitations of their access to the theses.

Linke said that he does not think this loss of access will prove very detrimental to current seniors conducting their thesis research.

“We had hoped to provide a greater level of service with this [online] system,” Linke said. “We would like to move forward, but we’re still providing the same service we did to last year’s students."

In the meantime, students can still access the theses in person at Mudd and request free PDF copies of them if they sign a copyright agreement, Linke said. Students can also request PDF files of old theses for a fee, as these theses are in paper form and must be converted to PDF form.

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