Copyright information relating to theses
Learn about copyright ownership and including third party material in your thesis
Follow the Copyright and your thesis tutorial to guide you through the copyright issues you need to be aware of when compiling and submitting your thesis.
Learn more about copyright:
Learn more about copyright:
Does the copyright of the thesis belong to the author?
The copyright of a thesis normally belongs to the author, but this ownership may be assigned in the following instances:
- by written agreement – either specifically or as part of an undertaking between the researcher and the awarding institution when the research first began
- where the research has been sponsored in whole or in part by an outside body that has required assignment of copyright as a condition of sponsorship
- if the awarding institution employs the researcher to undertake the work, the copyright automatically belongs to the employer, unless a contract has been entered into by both parties specifying otherwise
In all of the above circumstances, you would need to gain the permission of the copyright holder(s) before depositing your thesis in the LJMU E-Theses Collection (or other open access repositories e.g. EThOS).
Can I include third party copyright material in my thesis?
Traditionally, it has been accepted that third party copyright material can be included in the print version of a thesis for examination purposes. Other exceptions that also apply include:
- cases where the author has been dead for at least 70 years
- if the work has been published under a Creative Commons License (which allows reuse of the material)
- the use of extracts or quotations is for the purpose of “criticism and review” and where the extracts are: from previously published sources, properly acknowledged and referenced, not substantial.
Use of extracts under these exceptions can be defended as “fair dealing”. This essentially allows limited copying without permission, provided it is fair and the commercial interests of the rights holder are not damaged.
Third party material includes extracts or quotations from publications (such as: books, journals, conference papers, theses etc) and illustrations (such as: tables, figures, photos, maps etc.). Copyright also applies to materials obtained from internet sources.
If your thesis is to be made available electronically in an Open Access repository, then you will need to seek the permission of the copyright holder(s) to include any third party material.
What do you need to seek permission for?
If the third party copyright material within your thesis consists of a short quotation from a published work and you have acknowledged and referenced it adequately, then it will probably not be necessary to seek permission from the copyright holder. However, copyright law does not define what is meant by a short extract. If in doubt, it is best to seek permission.
You are strongly advised to clear all rights and obtain all permissions for material from third party copyright holders as you gather your resources and write up your thesis, rather than leaving it to the point at which you are required to deposit it in the LJMU E-Theses Collection. Not doing so may delay the release of your degree certificate once you have completed your award.
If you intend to include material that you yourself have had published (for example, journal articles) you need to check if the publisher will permit you to include it in your thesis. Most publishers permit this, but the easiest way to check is by contacting the publisher directly. A sample permission seeking template is available.
How can I seek permission for third party copyright?
To seek permission to include third party material within the electronic version of your thesis, you need to contact the rights holder. This may be the author of a work, the publisher or an illustrator.
For material from books or journals, you should first contact the publisher. Many publishers give details on their websites on how to seek permission and who to contact. Look for information on rights, permissions or copyright clearance. If the publisher does not hold the rights to the work, they should forward your enquiry to whoever does.
Once you have established who to contact you can use this permission seeking template to form the basis of a letter or e-mail to the rights holder, asking permission to include the material in the electronic version of your thesis.
If the rights holder does not reply immediately, you may choose to contact them again. Please note that you may not deem a lack of response as permission to go ahead.
What should I do if permission is granted?
If a copyright holder indicates that permission has been granted, you should indicate this at the appropriate point in your thesis. For example: “Permission to reproduce this ... has been granted by...”.
Keep a copy of any letters or emails you receive from rights holders. The correspondence should then be collated into a document and deposited along with your thesis as an additional file. For example, date-surname-phd-permissions.pdf or .doc.
Access to this document will be restricted to repository administrators only. The document will be made available to the thesis author should any copyright issues arise in the future.
What should I do if permission is not granted?
If you need to include third party copyright material in your thesis and you are unable to obtain permission, or you are asked to pay to do this, you will not be able to make the full version of the thesis publicly available online.
You need to select the option on the E-Thesis Access Declaration and Deposit Agreement form to restrict access to the electronic version of your thesis because of copyright restrictions. However, you are still required to deposit an electronic copy of your thesis, which will be held securely.
When depositing an edited version of your thesis for public view, you will need to ensure all the third party material (for which permission has not been granted or sought for inclusion in the University repository) has been removed or hidden.
One suggestion is to use a placeholder note where the text or other content has been removed. For example:
The [insert description here e.g. image/diagram/map/text] originally presented here cannot be made freely available via LJMU E-Theses Collection because of [insert 'copyright' or other reason here]. The [image/diagram/map/text] was sourced at [insert details of where the item originated such as bibliographic reference, publication details, URL or other relevant details here].
Removing content and adding notes may disrupt the pagination of the electronic version. If necessary, you should consider using the ‘page break’ function to retain the original pagination of the final full version submitted for examination.
Apart from removing restricted content and replacing it with a note, no other changes should be made to the text of the edited version – this should remain the same as the final passed version.
How can I deposit my thesis?
- If you have obtained copyright permission for all third party material in your thesis, or if there is no third party material in your thesis, deposit one electronic copy of the full version of your thesis. This will be made publicly available.
- If you have been unable to obtain copyright permission for all or some of the third party material in your thesis, deposit two electronic versions of your thesis:
- the full version, with all third party material retained (even if you have not been able to obtain third party copyright permission)
- an edited version, with any copyright material for which permission has not been granted or sought removed
Only the edited electronic version will be made publicly available - the full version will not.
Help and advice
If you are unsure whether you need to get permission to include any material within your thesis, it is always best to assume that you do. If you need any more information relating to copyright or if you need copyright advice, please contact the LJMU E-Theses Service.