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eCommons Access Considerations, For Undergraduate Students

The purpose of eCommons@Cornell is to provide stable, long-term access to digital content produced by members of the Cornell University community. By default, material deposited in eCommons is openly accessible worldwide over the Web. Under certain circumstances, restrictions or temporary embargoes on worldwide open access may be imposed, as described below.

Access restrictions are set during the deposit process but may be relaxed at a later date. For more information, see eCommons Policies.

Default Access Setting: Open Access

Benefits of open access:

  • Continual and rapid worldwide access to your work, for yourself and others, at any time and from any place.
  • Increased visibility: your work can be easily shared with and discovered by others, increasing its potential use and impact.
  • Assigned a single, permanent URL: your work can be clearly and easily referenced by yourself and others, in subsequent research, resumes, job applications, etc.
  • Publicly and quickly associates your name with your ideas and research. This not only gives you credit and helps build your reputation, it also makes it difficult for others to appropriate your ideas without giving you credit.


  • Increased potential for piracy: open content can be downloaded by anyone on the Web. Using a license to make an explicit statement about how others can use your work will discourage some piracy (see Copyright below).
  • Some publishers may consider open access to be "prior publication" (see below).

Restricting Access to Cornell

Access may be restricted to members of the Cornell community. This restriction may be temporary or indefinite.

Limiting access to those on the Cornell campus is typically done to respect access restrictions on purchased content, where license agreements stipulate the degree of access allowed. While this level of access allows work to be shared with others at Cornell, it will not make your work visible to a wider audience.

Temporary Access Embargoes

Access to the full text may be temporarily blocked (to all users) for an embargo period normally not to exceed 5 years. After the embargo period, the content will be openly accessible worldwide.

All embargo periods expire. A temporary embargo on access may be useful for:

  • work that contains patentable information that needs to be temporarily protected;
  • creative works, such as fiction or poetry, which the author expects to publish;
  • work sent out for publication, to a publisher with policies against prior access to published content.

The downside of using an embargo is that your work is inaccessible—you have no way of referencing, sharing, or promoting your work while it is under an embargo.

Further Considerations

FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 protects the privacy rights of students. It requires that "educational records" be released only with a student's signed consent. With respect to eCommons@Cornell, we require that all student work submitted to eCommons, such as a term paper or honors' thesis, must be accompanied by a signed release form. Such forms are typically created, administered, and maintained by the student's department.

Copyright: The author of any work submitted to eCommons retains copyright to the work. Submission to eCommons imposes no restrictions on your future use of the work. It is a good idea to be explicit about what others can and cannot do with your work by applying a license to it. Creative Commons provides an easy way to license your work. In many cases, the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license is a good one for eCommons content. All Creative Commons licenses require that any use of your work be credited to you.

Confidential information: Submitting work to eCommons requires you to attest that the work contains no confidential or proprietary information. Confidential information includes data that can uniquely identify someone, such as a Social Security number, credit card number, or driver's license number. Proprietary information is information, such as patentable information, that is owned, or may be owned, by someone else.

Prior publication: Most student work, if submitted for publication, will undergo revision, and most publishers do not consider earlier drafts as prior publication. A few academic journals, however, have policies against publishing previously printed or archived work. Consult your thesis advisor or the honors office if you have questions about this.

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