Copyright and your thesis

You own copyright in your thesis. Under copyright, you will have certain rights in your thesis such as:

  • Reproducing your thesis
  • Publishing your thesis or making it available to the public
  • Communicating your thesis, for example making it available online.

As an author, you also have moral rights over your thesis.

In some cases, you may have signed a research agreement or publish agreement that may affect what rights you retain in your work. If so, you may need to take this into consideration, when determining if you can make your thesis available on open access or if it needs to be embargoed.

Making your thesis available on open access

In making your thesis available on open access, you will need to check that:

  • You have cleared the rights to use any copyright material created by other people included in your thesis
  • If you have previously published your thesis or have included previously published materials in your thesis (thesis by publication), in part or in full, make sure that any publishing or author agreements you have signed allow you to make your thesis available on open access
  • there are other reasons why making your thesis available on open access might not be suitable or permitted, such as a pending patent application, the terms of a research or funding agreement, politically or legally sensitive information.

Dealing with copyright material created by other people

If your thesis includes copyright material created by other people, often called third party copyright material; you may need to seek permission from the copyright owner to use their work unless the Copyright Act allows you to use the work without their permission. You do not need to seek permission if:

  • Copyright in the work has expired.
  • You are including an insubstantial portion, for example, quotes from a book or journal article. Be careful if using quotes or excerpts from a short work such as a song, poem or piece of music as small portions are less likely to be considered insubstantial.
  • You have an express license to use the work, e.g. a contract, website conditions, Creative Commons material, copyright owner has explicitly waived copyright, etc.
  • Your use is covered under fair dealing provisions.

Particular care should be taken if your thesis includes music, sound recordings or films as clearing the rights for this material can be difficult.

If you are not able to clear the rights for third party copyright material, you may be able to make a redacted version of your thesis available on open access. A redacted version is one with any uncleared copyright material removed. For more information see the section on redacted version of your thesis.

You should also make sure that you acknowledge all third party copyright material in your thesis with a full bibliographic citation.

Seeking permission to using copyright material

If you decide to seek permission to clear the rights to use third-party copyright material, it is important that you start the process of obtaining permission as soon as possible as obtaining permission is an often lengthy and complex process. In some cases, it may not be possible to obtain permission or you may be asked to pay a licensing fee.

All permission requests must be in writing. You will need to keep copies of all permission documents as records of what permissions have been obtained. These records are considered legal documents and should be retained for as long as your thesis is protected by copyright or it remains on open access. If requested by the University, you may be required to provide copies of the permission documents.

If you are not able to obtain permission for copyright material in your thesis, or you need time to obtain permission, you will need to embargo your thesis or redact the third party copyright material. Further information on how to seek permission to use third-party copyright material can be found here.

Listing third party copyright material

Whether choosing open access or seeking an embargo, the preparation of graduate research theses rules require you to list all third party copyright material included in your thesis and whether you have gained permission from the copyright owners to make this material publicly available as part of your thesis. This includes:

  • Any images
  • Audio-visual material, including sound recordings – both musical and non-musical – or films.

When creating the list of third party copyright material included in your thesis, please use the template for listing third party copyright material (DOCX 13.5 KB).