Use of copyright material

Guidance on using third-party material in theses.


Material owned by a third party - another author, photographer, publisher etc. – is protected by copyright.

Use of third-party material in your thesis therefore has copyright implications, particularly when publishing your thesis online. Permission to include material can come in several forms:

  • If the work is old (generally copyright exists for 70 years following the death of the author)
  • If re-use of the work is covered by an open licence such as Creative Commons
  • If there is an exception in law which applies to a student's use - this will usually be for a small amount of published work (see exceptions, fair dealing and reuse)

If the use does not fall under any of the terms above, students will need to seek permission directly from the copyright holder. If the material is from a published book or journal it is best to contact the publisher of the work in the first instance.

Many large publishers have Rights and Permissions departments used to dealing with copyright clearance; email addresses can often be found on publishers’ websites. It is important to realise that no response does not mean that permission is granted.

Where permission to use the third party copyright material is obtained, students should make sure that clear acknowledgements are provided within the thesis, and that a written record of all correspondence is kept.

If clearance is not obtained to use copyright material that is considered essential, there are two options:

  • Embargo the electronic thesis (an electronic copy will still need to be submitted to the University); or
  • Edit the electronic thesis so that it complies with third-party copyright requirements, clearly indicating the excisions made.  A full copy of the thesis will also be required.  This will also be electronic, but will not be made public.

Further information about copyright can be found online from the Library.

All newly-registered research students are strongly encouraged to undertake training on using copyright materials. Details of training events will be posted via the link above, or contact your Librarian for further information.

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