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I'm about to publish a thesis on a new encryption algorithm I devised, and was told by my Committee Chair that I would need to include:

  1. A copyright page - to safeguard my work from being patented by some other organization (locking myself and others from using the algorithm).

  2. A section releasing my work to the general public (for it to be used by everyone and anyone without fear of litigation from myself or any other party).

Question 1: Do I need a copyright page?

Question 2: If so, would anyone have an example of what a copyright page should look like for something like an encryption algorithm (if there is even such a distinction legally speaking)?

Question 3: Do I need to include a section releasing my work to the general public (or is simply publishing my work online sufficient)?

Question 4: If so, where would this section be included? For example, would I include this section in the copyright page / section, or should I include this section on its own page? Should this section be placed at the beginning of my paper (before my abstract) or someplace after?

Question 5: Does anyone have an example of what this section (freeing my work to the general public) should look like? Also, if I wanted to ensure that any further work by any other party using my algorithm is also not locked down / patented etc (so that any derivative works are also freely available to the general public), what sort of terminology would I need to include?

Note: It would be extremely helpful if someone could provide me with the exact text that I'd need to include in my paper (rather than a link), so that there is no confusion on my part and I can simply copy and paste the sections into my thesis.

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    If this is really important to you, you probably want to consult a professional copyright lawyer instead of asking random people on the internet. – SEJPM Dec 5 '18 at 18:56
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    Can you please edit your question to say which jurisdiction (=which country) you are in? – SEJPM Dec 5 '18 at 19:16
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    This may be a better fit for a site like the opensource stackexchange. I went to edit the tags on this Q, because copy-protection is not relevant, but there don't appear to be any relevant tags. The encryption part of the question will probably be unrelated to the answer, and so a different site is probably more appropriate. – Ella Rose Dec 5 '18 at 19:45
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    Is there no one in your own educational institution who would be able to answer these questions? – mhum Dec 5 '18 at 20:28
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    “A copyright page - to safeguard my work from being patented” — beware that either you misunderstood or you're getting bad advice. A copyright page would have no bearing on patents. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Dec 5 '18 at 20:30
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First of all, if your Committee Chair says that you need a copyright page, or a release, or a troop of dancing clowns, then you need one -- you should comply with any requirements that your Committee Chair imposes, whether they are legally required or not.

A copyright notice is not strictly required, as copyright is automatic as soon as the work is put into writing , whether on paper or in a computer file (or any other tangible form). This is true in all countries that adhere to the Bern Copyright Convention, witch is essentially every country in the world. So to Question 1, "No you don't, legally. but it isn't a bad idea".

A plausible notice would be "Copyright © 2018 Jean Student" or "Copyright © 2018 by Jean Student, All Rights Reserved, except as otherwise might then be stated." (Question 2)

You should be aware that a copyright will not prevent someone else from patenting the technique, although it might possibly be evidence of your prior work, and so make it easier to contest such a claim.

A copyright page could also include acknowledgements of prior work, or of people who provided assistance.

The question mentions "A section releasing my work to the general public". This could mean releasing the paper itself under an open source license, such as a CC license. Or it could mean releasing the ideas, freeing them of any patent claims by the author.

Both of these could easily be done on the same page as the copyright notice. Suppose one decided to user a CC_BY_ND 4.0 license. The test for the license for the paper could then be:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This license is granted as of {date}.

You are free to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format for any purpose, even commercially.

You must give appropriate credit: You must provide the name of the creator and attribution parties, a copyright notice, a license notice, a disclaimer notice, and a link to the material. You must also provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.

You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.

If you also wish to release the ideas and forgo any potential patent royalties you could include a notice such as:

I, {name}, the author of this document and the inventor of the original concepts described in it, hereby authorize and permit anyone to use my original ideas herein described, and to practice and teach all arts and skills herein taught, for any purpose, without fee or royalty, from this date forward. This authorization is permanent and does not expire. This authorization granted as of {date}.

(Question 4) Legally, it doesn't really matter where in the document you put either or both of these releases. It would be common to have them at or near the start of the document, perhaps on the copyright page, but there is no difference in their legal effect, provided that the type is not so small as to make it hard for people to notice and read them.

As to Question 3, you are not legally required to release either the paper or your ideas. However, your college, university or institution may require this. Simply publishing your work may make it harder, or in some jurisdictions impossible, to obtain a patent, unless you applied for a patent or took other legal steps before publishing. but may well not have the same effect as a full release.

As to Question 5 I don't think that there is any patent equivalent of a share-alike or copy-left license. if someone reads your work and uses it to create a new and original idea or process, beyond what is in your work, but based on it, then that person can patent that idea, provided it qualifies under the patent laws of the relevant country or countries.

I urge you to find previous thesis documents in your field from your institution, and see what form of copyright page and release they used. You might also want to consult your committee or its chairperson, asking for specific advice on the forms that they recommend, Since it seems to be important to them, you might as well follow their preferred form.

Note that if your ideas eventually do have commercial value, you might be giving up valuable rights. You might want to read up on the economic benefits that the inventors of the RSA algorithm, for example, obtained eventually from their discovery. You may wish to carefully consider and consult a lawyer skilled in the field before making a final decision, because once you publish your work with such a release it may not be possible to reverse that choice.

  • For academic work, I'd strongly advise against a no-derivative license and wouldn't recommend a non-commercial license. Your last sentence is a bit weak; I;d say that after a release with a license it is not possible to reverse that choice. – David Thornley Dec 5 '18 at 23:24
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The copyright page isn't a legal requirement, but it may be an institutional requirement. The copyright notice (which you should always have) is "Copyright 2018" followed by your name, plus the names of any collaborators. Copyright notices normally go in the first few pages, before the main text.

The copyright notice doesn't affect patents in the slightest, but once you've published something it counts as prior art, so nobody can patent what you've done. It may be possible to patent things around your work, but nothing you can do will stop someone else from coming up with something patentable.

If you want to patent it yourself, you need to find someone who knows the law in your country. Your institution may have its own policies, and will likely be able to provide someone to help. Be aware that, in some countries, publishing before filing the patent application may nullify the application.

Publishing your work online is not releasing it to the public, since nobody can do anything besides read it without a license. The license text should go where your adviser tells you. Putting it on a separate page right after the copyright page should do nicely.

For anything except software, Creative Commons licenses are applicable and well known. If you're not told what license to use, I'd recommend it. They have FAQs on selecting a license. You want a license that requires attribution, and possibly one that requires sharing, which would be referred to as CC-BY or CC-BY-SA respectively. You can just copy-paste the license onto your license page(s). The licenses are fairly long, and the links are stable, so I'm not including the text here.

I advise against writing your own license. It's easy to get some detail wrong.

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