Once your own work is “fixed” in a medium, including digital memory, it is automatically protected by copyright law. You are not required to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office for it to be granted copyright protection. But a benefit of registering is to create a public record of your copyright claim. Moreover, registration is required if you wish to initiate a lawsuit for copyright infringement and request actual damages. A copyright page in your document is optional. (Please see the George Mason University Dissertation & Thesis Services for more information.)
Keep in mind, when you submit your dissertation to Proquest, as required by the University, you have the option to request registration of your work with the U.S. Copyright Office for a small fee paid to Proquest. If you choose this option, you do not need to submit a separate registration to that Office. Be sure to read carefully the contract you sign with Proquest. When you sign this document, it is legally binding. If you have basic questions about the contract, ask Mason’s UDTS Coordinator or a Proquest representative for clarification.
One student’s experience with copyright and his thesis.