Skip to main content

Copyright at UNSW

Publishing your research

There are a few factors that need to be considered when you’re planning to publish research, including: 

  • confirming rights or obtaining permissions to use third party copyright materials in your publication
  • copyright in your original work and publisher agreements
  • whether to publish open access
  • how to disseminate, share and preserve research outputs

When publishing research that includes other people’s material, permission prior to publication is generally needed from the copyright owner. Accurately citing the source within your publication is required regardless of whether permission is also required.

Permission may not be required if:

  • the use qualifies as fair dealing for the purpose of criticism, review, parody or satire
  • copyright has expired
  • 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 purpose

Examples of materials for which you will need permission to reproduce include:

  • a substantial portion of the text
  • figures, graphs and tables
  • test items and questionnaires
  • samples of music
  • clips of video or film
  • musical compositions and sound recordings
  • song lyrics
  • illustrations

If using published material, the first point of contact is usually the publisher, who may be able grant permission or provide information about whom to contact. For unpublished material, the first point of contact is usually the author.

A publisher will generally expect that you secure these permissions yourself. To warrant that this has been done, publishers often require copies of the permissions. This process is often referred to by publishers as obtaining copyright clearance. When in doubt, check with your publisher.

Best practice is to get the permission in writing. Retain copies of permissions for your own records.

When requesting permission, it is important to be clear about your intended use of the material, the nature and purpose of the new work you are creating, the size and nature of the intended audience and how you intend to distribute it.

Many major publisher websites have detailed guidelines on how to ask for permission, with some providing online forms. 

Some publishers will direct requests through RightsLink to get permission or licence to re-use the work. When requesting permission via RightsLink, ensure that you specify your intended purpose.

It is important to plan and allow plenty of time to obtain copyright permission.  

For more information, check the Australian copyright council information sheet Permission: How to get it 

When researchers are considering publishing their work, there are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration. These include:

  • identifying an appropriate publishing model
  • any conditions that may be attached to grants that may have implications regarding their choice of publisher
  • gaining permission for third party copyright material in their work
  • retaining the rights to the original work and use of the work in the future
  • open access requirements of your institution or funder

Publisher/author agreements

Authors own the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute and modify their materials, unless copyright has been transferred to another person or organisation.

When submitting a work to a publisher, the author of the work may be asked to sign a publisher agreement (also known as an author agreement). A publisher author agreement is a legal contract between the author and the publisher.  Amongst other things, a publisher agreement will determine:

  • who owns copyright in the work
  • what rights the author retains (if copyright is transferred to the publisher)

Whilst publishers do require a licence to distribute your work, it is not necessary to transfer all your rights to the publisher. For this reason, it is important to read the agreement carefully and clearly understand the terms of the agreement, before signing.

An ideal publisher agreement is one that allows the author to keep copyright in the work and transfer limited rights to the publisher so that the publisher can distribute the author’s work. If this is not possible, then at a minimum the agreement should allow the author to keep some rights by providing the author with a non-exclusive licence to reuse their own work.

The following are some of the rights to consider retaining when negotiating a publisher agreement:

  • use the work for future educational or professional purposes
  • distribute copies in the classroom
  • make derivative works
  • perform or display the work
  • include all or part of the work in a future publication
  • self archive in an institutional repository or personal website
  • use the work in a conference presentation

Publishing open access

It might be appropriate to make your research output or creative work available to others under an open licence, such as a Creative Commons licence. Benefits for making your work available open access include:

  • Research outputs will be freely available online to read, download and use, maximising the usage, impact and outcomes of the research and thus increasing the visibility of your work
  • meeting requirements from funding bodies, such as Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) which require research outputs from ARC/NHMRC funded projects to be made available via open access repositories or other means of public access.
    • ​If you need help understanding the publication requirements of your NHMRC or ARC funding agreement, please contact your faculty outreach librarian

The UNSW open access policy has been in place since June 2017. UNSW supports open access to research outputs produced at UNSW and recognises that making outputs openly available maximises impact and exposure of the work.

For information on how to publish open access see open access at UNSW and Australasian open access support group

In Australia, copyright material is subject to copyright as soon as it is created. The author or creator does not have to do anything to gain copyright and protection for their work but you might want to protect and effectively manage your rights. 

In Australia, some copyright works are subject to legal deposit. The National library of Australia website provides more information about legal deposit and what kinds of works must be deposited.

If your work is subject to legal deposit in New South Wales see ISBNs and legal deposits for deposit locations.

While there is no requirement to put a copyright statement on your work, it is good practice. It alerts the world that it is copyright material and that you are the owner. It should include: 

  • the copyright symbol - a lower case c in a circle,
  • the name of the copyright owner (who may or not be the author),
  • the year the work was created or published,
  • your contact details and any conditions of use you wish to impose

For example. © John Smith 2019 example@unsw.edu.au All rights reserved.  
Another example: © Copyright The University of New South Wales

Other steps which will help protect your work:

  • include a full bibliographic citation - your work can be correctly acknowledged when it is used as the creator or copyright owner can be identified
  • include instructions on how to get permission, including contact information
  • write your own copyright statement specifying what you will permit users to do
  • attach a Creative Commons licence
  • if the work is in digital format, include the creator or copyright owner’s information in the metadata
  • use low resolution images
  • include a watermark

The Copyright Agency is the body that collects the remuneration from educational institutions and government departments for the copying and communication of published material. It is then responsible for distributing money to copyright owners whose works are copied, but only if they are members of the Copyright Agency. You can find out more about membership by visiting the Copyright Agency website.

There are copyright collecting societies for all kinds of copyright materials. More information about Australian copyright collecting societies for music, lyrics, sound recordings, music videos, visual arts, film and literature can be found on the Arts law centre of Australia’s information sheet on copyright collecting societies.

You may be considered a publisher if you make copyright works publicly available through managing a website, editing a journal or issuing conference proceedings. If you are responsible for making works publicly available, you should consider issues of copyright and moral rights in the works you publish.

The Copyright Act 1968 defines publication as follows:

  • for literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works: if reproductions of the work have been supplied to the public
  • for films: if copies of the film have been sold, let on hire or exposed for sale or hire to the public
  • for sound recordings: if the recordings or parts of the recordings have been supplied to the public

Managing permissions

As a publisher, it important that permission has been granted by the copyright owner to include each work (e.g. article, paper, thesis, book, photograph, map, video, sound file) that appears on the publisher’s website or in other publications.

Permissions should be obtained in writing and should be retained for future reference. Use reasonable measures to ensure that the permission is given by a party who is authorised to give it. The original creator of the work is not always the rights holder, and they may not have the authority to grant permission for use.

When requesting permission from a creator to use their work, you may want the creator to warrant that they have secured all necessary permissions for the copyright material in their own work and that the work does not include any data or information that is private, defamatory or confidential.

Using student content

Work produced by a student is protected by copyright, and as a general rule the owner is the student unless there is a written agreement transferring ownership. If you wish to showcase a student’s work on a website or in a publication, you will need permission from the student.

Moral rights

As a publisher, you also have an obligation to respect creators’ moral rights. Moral rights are personal rights that belong to an author even if the copyright in the work has been transferred to someone else.

Creators have the right to be identified as the creator of their works, the right to prevent others from being falsely named as the creators of their works and the right to ensure that their works are not subject to derogatory treatment.

Find out more about Moral rights and Plagiarism.

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

Unless otherwise stated, materials deposited in UNSWorks are licenced 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 

When depositing research output to UNSWorks via ROS, you will be prompted to select a licence agreement before you can submit the publication. For a copy of these licences or for more information, see UNSWorks

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.