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Copyright at UNSW

Copyright and your thesis

UNSW students generally own copyright in their own works, including UNSW postgraduate students’ research theses.  There are exceptions to these rules, and they can be found in the UNSW intellectual property policy

When researching and writing your thesis, you may include third party copyright material such as quotes, tables, photographs, illustrations or diagrams. When using third party copyright material, you must ensure that you comply with copyright law. Under the fair dealing provision for research or study, within the Copyright Act, a reasonable portion of third party copyright material can be used in the version of your thesis submitted for examination. 

If third party copyright materials are reproduced in the public version of your thesis, you generally need permission from the copyright owner.  This permission is in addition to the normal academic practice of citing resources. 

UNSW requires a digital copy of theses to be deposited into the University's open access repository, UNSWorks. As part of the depositing process, you must declare that you obtained permission from any third party copyright materials within your thesis. More information about thesis submission can be found at Graduate Research

For this reason, it is important for students to carefully consider what third party copyright material they include in their thesis and allow time to obtain permission from copyright owners, if required.

For more information about thesis examination processes for all higher degree research programs at UNSW, see Thesis examination procedure.

Generally, substantial third party copyright material may be included without copyright owner's permission if:

  • Copyright has expired
  • A fair dealing exception covers the use 
  • An insubstantial portion is used
  • The material has a licence to allows for re-use

Written permission must be obtained for all substantial third party copyright materials included in the public version of your thesis. Fair dealing does not cover the use of third party materials in publicly communicated works. Third party material is anything for which someone else owns the copyright. Common examples are long quotations, questionnaires, computer code, musical notation and artistic works such as diagrams, charts, tables and images.

The information below outlines what materials can be used and when you need permission for copyright materials in the public version of your thesis.

When can copyright material be used without seeking permission?

There are some circumstances where other people’s material can be used without permission. These include:

  • when the copyright has expired or the copyright owner has waived their rights (Public Domain) 
  • when a fair dealing exception covers the use (for more information about exceptions for criticism, review, parody and satire 
  • the amount used is insubstantial (i.e. brief quote / extract from a publication). See,  Quoting materials 
  • the material has a licence or terms that allows for re-use, for example:
    • materials with a Creative Commons licence attached
    • materials copied from a website where the terms and conditions allow re-use for your intended purposes

When using other people’s copyright material, remember to attribute the work and abide by any terms attached to licences.

 

What copyright materials requires permission for reuse?

Permission is generally required if a substantial portion of the third party material has been used.  Whether a portion is considered substantial or not is judged on both a qualitative and quantitative basis.

Examples of the type of materials that require permission for the public version of your thesis are as follows:

Text works
Books and journal articles a substantial portion has been used. 
Short work such as poems best practice is to seek permission as even a small portion may be considered substantial
For more information see Australian copyright council information sheet on quotes and extracts
Artistic works  

Includes paintings, photographs,

diagrams, tables and graphs.

Judgment about insubstantial portions in such works are difficult, it is best practice to seek permission.

When photographs are taken of artistic works, permission should be sought from the original artist and possibly the photographer

Audio visual materials  
Includes CD, DVDs and videos Judgment about insubstantial portions in such works are difficult it is best practice to seek permission.
Copyright materials found on the internet
Check the website's terms and conditions regarding the re-use of the content and seek permission if your intended purpose is not covered in the terms and conditions. 
Materials covered by licence or contractual agreements
Check the licence or agreement regarding the re-use of the content and seek permission from the publisher if your intended purpose is not covered in the terms and conditions.

Copyright owners have exclusive rights to use of their copyright material, unless the use is covered by an exception in the Copyright Act 1968. When exceptions or licences do not cover the use of the third party copyright materials, it is your responsibility to seek permission from the copyright owner.

To request permission from a copyright owner you should: 

  • identify who owns the copyright to the material and find contact details for them - contact details are often included on publishers' websites
  • put your request in writing 
    • check to see if the publisher has an online permission form on their website 
    • f the publisher does not have a form, this Copyright permission request template can be used as a guide to request permission
  • include a detailed description of material to be used and the amount of the material you wish to use 
  • state clearly that you are seeking permission to use the work for non-commercial purposes 
  • be conscious that the copyright owner has the right to say no 
  • be aware that a copyright owner may charge a fee or ask you to sign a licence agreement 
  • allow plenty of time, as it may take months for the permission to be granted 
  • explain that the work will be included in a digital thesis that will be made publicly available online
  • retain copies of permissions for your own records - copies of permissions do not need to be submitted to UNSW.

If permission for any material has not been obtained at the time your thesis is submitted, those materials must be removed from the public version of your thesis. In the place of the redacted materials, you may include a short statement, such as: Figure (Text/Chart/Diagram etc.) has been removed due to copyright restrictions.”  

If possible, include a reference or a link to the source of the material to enable readers to access the removed content. 

For more information on seeking permission, please refer to the Australian copyright council’s permission: how to get it information sheet.

If you plan to incorporate your own research publications into your research, it may be possible if the research and its publication occurred during the candidature of your degree. You will need the necessary permission from the publishers and any co-authors, and if you are using a publication/s in lieu of a chapter/s in your thesis, approval from your primary supervisor and School Postgraduate Research Coordinator is also required. Some faculties may also have discipline-specific guidelines that should be consulted. 

For more information about incorporating publications into your thesis, see Thesis Examination Procedure and the UNSW Thesis Format Guide.

Publisher agreements often assign the publisher all rights to the work, although each publisher's policy differs. If you plan to incorporate articles in your thesis, the terms can be negotiated with the publisher prior to signing the agreement. For more information, see Publishing your research. 


If you haven’t negotiated rights prior to publication and need to request permission from the publisher:

  • put your request in writing
    • check to see if the publisher has an online permission form on their website
    • if the publisher does not have a form, this UNSW copyright permission template can be used to request permission
  • tell them the amount of the work you wish to use (e.g. the whole work or a part/section)
  • state clearly that you are seeking permission to use the work for non-commercial purposes
  • consider asking permission for future use of the material (e.g. conference presentations)
  • be conscious that the copyright owner has the right to say no
  • be aware that a copyright owner may charge a fee or ask you to sign a licence agreement
  • allow plenty of time, as it may take months for the permission to be granted

UNSWorks is the UNSW Open Access institutional repository which enables UNSW researchers to make their research outputs freely available and accessible. 

When depositing your thesis into UNSWorks, you grant UNSW a licence to make the thesis freely available online under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence (CC BY-NC-ND).  This licence permits the use of the material subject to the following conditions: 

  • attribution - give appropriate credit and provide a link to the licence 
  • non-commercial - the material may not be used for commercial purposes 
  • no derivatives - the material cannot be distributed if it has been remixed, transformed, or built upon 

As the creator of the work, you retain copyright in the thesis as well as the right to use the thesis in future works (i.e. future articles, books, conference presentations).

As part of the depositing process, you must declare that you have obtained permission for any third party copyright materials within your thesis. If you have been unable to obtain permission, the third party copyright material must be removed from the public version of your thesis.

Need help?

For general copyright queries submit an Ask a question form, visit a Help Zone or contact us

For other queries, please contact your Outreach Librarian.

Related resources

Depositing your thesis

Australian Copyright Council Information Sheet: Permission: How to Get It