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Theses: Copyright

Information about theses at Southampton: thesis templates, guidance on e-theses, how to find theses

Useful Links

Take down policy

In the unlikely event of a copyright holder contacting and telling us that illegal material is present then ePrints has a take down policy and material can be removed immediately

Guidance from other organisations

Advice on how to use material within copyright on a range of subjects.

International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM):
Guidelines for Quotation and Other Academic Uses of Excerpts from Journal Articles

The Society of Authors: Guide to Copyright and Permissions

The British Academy and the Publishers Association:
Joint Guidelines on Copyright and Academic Research - Guidelines for researchers and publishers in the Humanities and the Social Sciences.

DACS (Design and Artists Copyright Society): 
Fair Dealing - Criticism and Review  

Intellectual Property Office
Copyright: essential reading

Copyright - who owns what

The ownership of the copyright of the thesis rests with the author.

However all third-party copyrighted material, i.e. material not written by the author, must be cleared unless it falls under a fair dealing exception such as review and criticism, if the thesis is to be made publicly available, for example on the web. Third-party copyright material could also include diagrams, extracts and data from previously published journal articles written by the author.

Copyright clearance is best done as and when material is found.

Please note that while students are asked to make best efforts to seek permission to include third party copyright material in their thesis you will not be penalised if it is not possible to gain permission, either because permissions are not granted, or because it would either be too onerous or too expensive to obtain permissions. It simply means that you will not be able to make the affected parts of your thesis freely available online. The outcome of your examination will not be affected in any way. No student will be required to make any payments to copyright holders for material they wish to include in their thesis.

Templates for requesting permissions are available from the Library.

Criticism & review exception

Under UK law, you are allowed to use someone else's copyrighted work in your own work without directly seeking permission as long as you are criticising or reviewing the work.

However, you must fulfill the following criteria:

  • The work has been ‘made available to the public by any means’.
  • The work, or themes or thoughts underlying it, is being criticised or reviewed.
  • The work is not used only as an illustration or to embellish the text
  • There is a preponderance of comment and analysis over the copyright work being criticised or reviewed (e.g. in a newspaper it isn't a two page spread with the photo of the artwork taking up 3/4 of the spread)
  • The criticism or review must directly accompany the copyright work being criticised or reviewed (e.g. not in a separate publication or as supplementary material).
  • Full bibliographical details/citation of the title of work, its author and source are provided in accordance with common scholarly practice

If you are at all unsure as to whether your use of the material is permitted, you must seek permission from the copyright owner.

For further information see  guidance on copright exceptions on Open.Gov.

Seeking copyright permissions

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, a publisher, an illustrator etc. In the case of material from books and journals your first course of action should be to contact the publisher. Many publishers give details on their web site of how to seek permission and who to contact: look for information on rights/permissions/copyright clearance. If the publisher does not hold the rights to the work they should forward your enquiry to whoever does.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has useful information locating a copyright holder and also keeps listings of organisations representing copyright owners.

Once you have established who to contact you can use this wording 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. However, note that you may not deem a lack of response as permission to go ahead.

We would advise you to review the material in your thesis as you go along and start the process to obtain permissions at the earliest stage possible.

If you are in any doubt whether you need to seek permissions then always seek advice from supervisors, who will have had experience in requesting copyright permissions.

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Asserting your own copyright

As part of the submission process you grant a deposit licence for your thesis. The deposit licence is non-exclusive and doesn't compromise your reuse of your thesis elsewhere. A cover sheet is added to the etheses and contains an additional statement about your copyright ownership and protection.

What to do once you have received permission

You should always acknowledge and reference the material you use. This sort of captioning is important. Quote the copyright holder and then give a standard statement eg. Reproduced with permission of the rights holder.

You should keep a copy of any letters or e-mails you received from rights holders and attach these to your Permission to Deposit Thesis form.

What to do if you do not receive permission

The copyright holder may refuse permission or set an unaffordable fee for use.

You should not have to pay and you should not compromise the academic integrity of your thesis if you cannot get copyright clearance. If copyright cannot be cleared, you have two options:

  1. You can embargo your entire thesis so that only the title and abstract are visible to the world. We would not recommend this.
  2. You can remove all copyright material and place it in an appendix, which is restricted/embargoed. This obviously makes no sense if removing the material seriously affects the remaining text.