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Digital Commons

A guide to posting and navigating DigitalCommons@CalPoly


Cal Poly students are responsible for submitting their own senior project. The student must grant the University permission to reproduce and distribute the work electronically.

Use of original work not authored by the student

Students may need to secure copyright permissions from the original copyright owner if the Senior Project contains 3rd party content (such as images, articles, music or other accompanying material). Consult the library copyright web page for additional guidance on this topic:

Cal Poly Intellectual Property Policy

The Cal Poly Intellectual Property Policy (2.A.4.a.) states: “Students will normally own the copyright to the scholarly and creative publications they develop, including works fulfilling course requirements (term papers and projects), Senior Projects, and Masters Theses/Projects. Students retain copyright ownership as long as they are not paid for the work that results in the creation and do not receive extraordinary University resources in support of the work.”

The full policy can be accessed online at

Copyright Protection of Student Work

Original work is automatically protected under copyright as soon as it is recorded in a tangible form. Senior projects do not have to be registered through the U.S. Copyright Office for their work to be protected by copyright.

However, you will not be able to pursue a copyright infringement lawsuit in the U.S. unless your work has been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. If a student wishes to register their work, the procedure and forms are available from the U.S. Copyright Office web site. The authors of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.

It is good practice to include a copyright notice where it will be seen by readers, so that they will be reminded that the work is protected by copyright and will be deterred from infringing upon your intellectual property. If your work were to be infringed upon, a copyright notice proves that the act was willful, which is an important component of proving infringement.

If you wish to further clarify the rights of reuse of your intellectual property, you may consider utilizing a CreativeCommons license, which is a free legal tool that helps authors easily indicate the allowed uses they want their work to carry. Learn more about CreativeCommons at:

Electronic Distribution of Senior Projects

Student Information

Students making submissions to the DigitalCommons@CalPoly agree to share their work and waive privacy rights granted by FERPA for the work, for the purpose of making the work available in the DigitalCommons@CalPoly.

Students will have an opportunity to provide a personal email address upon submission of the senior project. The personal email is not displayed or otherwise shared. The email is utilized by the system technology to provide updates on the status of the submission to the student. Once the paper is publicly accessible, the system will auto-generate a monthly statistical report to the student.

Web Distribution

An electronic senior project is governed by the campus, department, and library policy in effect at the time of its final submission to the Library.

Levels of Distribution

Two levels of electronic distribution of senior projects are available. A student, in concert with his/her advisor, may choose the level which fits the situation.

Open Access (Worldwide) Distribution

The first option, recommended by the University and Library, is to make the information freely available worldwide. It should be noted that this Open Access option may be viewed by some book or journal publishers as publishing the work. They may see a conflict with this level of distribution of the senior project.

Please note: Kennedy Library’s Interlibrary Services Department (ILS) receives national and international borrow requests for Cal Poly Senior Projects. Open Access designated projects will be distributed to satisfy relevant borrow requests. Restricted Access senior projects will not be distributed through ILS until the restricted access time period lapses and the item is available via Open Access.


Restricted Access (Complete restriction to file access)

The second option is to embargo (restrict) the senior project for patent, proprietary, or data sensitivity reasons. The student, with the written approval of his/her advisor, may select “restricted access” distribution for the senior project. During the submission process, the student will have the ability to indicate the initial embargo time period.

Senior projects holding the status of “Restricted Access" will receive a bibliographic record in the Library Catalog and a brief bibliographic display will be available in the DigitalCommons@CalPoly. “Restricted Access” status is designed to secure the work, even disallowing access to the Cal Poly community. This procedure addresses situations such as when a patent application is planned or when proprietary or security interests are at stake.

A senior project under the “Restricted Access” status will be placed on a secured server, but the file will not be made visible or available. Only the descriptive data (author, title, abstract, and basic information about the submission) will be publicly visible.

The status of “Restricted Access " will lapse after 1 or 5 years, depending on the restriction initially determined by the student and his/her advisor. The student may contact the Kennedy Library to obtain a 1 year extension before the expiration of the initial restriction. After the restriction expires, the document will be moved into open access (worldwide) distribution unless an exception has been granted by the department and/or college/school.

A student should not select restricted status in lieu of obtaining appropriate copyright permissions for use of 3rd party content, since senior projects are intended to be public record of student output. Restriction cannot be applied specifically to supplemental materials.

Retroactive Restriction of content

If you would like an item withdrawn from DC@CP, please contact the Academic & Scholarly Communication Services Staff with a request in writing, including the URL of your item and reason for request. Please note that we do not remove submissions except under legal and significant extenuating circumstances. A notice and takedown procedure will apply if proof of copyright infringement or complaint for other reasons, such as data protection or alleged research misconduct, is received. If content is removed from the IR, a publicly accessible item record which includes the original item description and a statement explaining the reason for withdrawal will be retained.

Requests for restriction should be sent to Digital Commons Staff at