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 right to use any copyright material created by other people included in your thesis
  • If you have previously published your thesis, in part or in full, any publishing or author agreements you signed allow you to make your thesis available on open access
  • there are no other reasons why open access might not be suitable or permitted, for example 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.
  • You are critiquing or review the work and your use is covered under fair dealing for criticism or review.
  • You are parodying or satirising the work and your use is covered under fair dealing for parody & satire.

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

Information about seeking permission from copyright owners is available here.

It is important that you start the process of obtaining permission as soon as possible.  It is not uncommon for it to take up to a year to obtain permission. 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.

  • Embargo your thesis. You will need to choose the Full Embargo option.  How long an embargo should last will depend on a number of factors.  If the thesis includes third party copyright material that you will never be able to obtain permission for then the embargo will need to be permanent.  If you need more time to obtain permission then you can ask for two year embargo.  However, you will need to ensure that you have obtained permission before the embargo expires or else your thesis cannot be made available on open access.

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.