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Copyright Guide: Copyright for researchers

Copyright for Researchers

Copyright is relevant whenever you are copying or sharing work that is created by others. You might also need to consider your own copyrighted work and how you wish to share it.

These frequently asked questions (FAQs) cover most questions that you might have starting out. There are further resources listed below that may answer other questions you might have. If you’re not sure about something and you would like some advice, you can use our chat service or book a 1:1 with a librarian.

You do. When a new work is created, copyright is held by the person who created it. If more than one person created the work (for example a journal article with multiple authors) then copyright will be held jointly between the authors.

In some cases, the University will own the copyright in the outputs of your research, for example if you create software. In other cases, funders, such as commercial organisations, may own the rights arising from your research as stated in your funding agreement. The detail of who owns the legal rights associated with work created at the University of Southampton is in the Intellectual Property Regulations.

When a work is published, it is common for copyright to be transferred to the publisher. We recommend that authors seek to retain copyright of their work wherever possible, or sufficient rights to re-use the work for university purposes such as teaching and uploading into PURE.

We offer extensive guidance on Open Access, Research Data Management, Theses and associated research outputs.

This can include:

  • Quotations, such as passages of text or music
  • Images, such as photographs, maps, charts or graphs

Quotations of text can be included if you are quoting reasonable amounts and they are properly cited, you don't need to get permission from the author or copyright owner. These uses are covered by the fair dealing copyright exception for quotation.

Short sections of music may also be covered by the fair dealing exception, but longer, significant pieces of music may require permission.

For images, if they are third-party copyright material (i.e. the rights belong to someone else), then it is unlikely that they will be covered by exceptions unless the copyright has expired. In this situation the author will need to obtain permission from the copyright holder if they wish to include them in a published work.

See our Finding Open Content list for sources of copyright-cleared material.

If you're unsure of whether your use of copyright material is a fair and reasonable quotation contact us at

If your use of other people’s work is significant you may need to contact the copyright holder for permission.

Open Access publishing refers to material that is free to all readers at the point of access, so they can use and share it easily. In addition to being free of charge, true open access means the work must be free of legal restrictions on reuse. So if you're publishing Open Access you'll need to select the appropriate copyright licence.

Many funders mandate Open Access publishing for research outputs, and a list of funder mandates can be found here.

If you are publishing open access material, it is essential that all third-party material is lawfully used in your publication. See the UKRI's Managing third-party copyright for research publications for guidance on good practice for monographs, books chapters and edited collections. Many of the approaches and considerations it presents can also be applied to including third-party content in a research article.


The University requires all final Postgraduate Research theses to be made openly available as early as possible. A University of Southampton thesis licence should be applied when depositing your thesis in Pure. This permits a copy to be downloaded provided it is being used for personal non-commercial research or study but the thesis and the accompanying data cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively without first obtaining permission from the copyright holder/s nor should it be changed in any way without permission. However, as the copyright owner, you are able to publish elsewhere using a Creative Commons licence. See the Further Resources section below for more information.

There are exceptional circumstances which may require you to restrict access for a period of time.  These circumstances can include the use of un-cleared third party copyright material (i.e. the rights belong to someone else).

If you have used other people's work in your thesis, follow the guidance in the section Copyright & your Thesis. You can contact us at if you need further information or assistance.

If your work is going to be published in a book, journal or similar output your publisher is likely to ask you to clear copyright in all the content you want to include. Examples of these would be significant textual quotations, photographs, illustrations, diagrams or musical scores.

If you've used other people's work in your thesis, follow the guidance in the section Copyright and your thesis.

In some cases, getting permission from copyright owners can be difficult or costly and you may want to investigate whether your use is covered by fair dealing exceptions. It's also possible that you can't identify or get in touch with the copyright owners of the content you want to reproduce. These are known as "orphan works" (see "what if I need to seek permission but can't find the copyright owner?' below)

If you need support in addressing any copyright issues please contact us at

In some cases it may not be possible to identify or get in touch with the copyright owner at all. These works are called orphan works and there are licensing schemes and exceptions in the UK that could allow you to make them available.

Advice and guidance on how to licence an orphan work can be found on the CopyrightUser website.

If your research involves working with archival material created within the last 100 years, it's likely that it will be protected by copyright. Most unpublished archival material from earlier than this is still in copyright in the UK.

If you want to digitise and makes these works available, allow time for rights clearance – the time and effort will vary depending on the material you’re working with.

If you are using text and data mining (TDM) to undertake automated analysis of your datasets, you need to address the copyright issues.

Text and data mining involves copying and normalising your data. If this is protected by copyright or database rights you will need to either have a licence from the copyright owner or determine that the TDM exception applies to your activity. This exception allows you to apply TDM to any copyright works for non-commercial research purposes, as long as you have lawful access.

You’ve already had work published and want to include some of this work in your thesis. Although the material is your own work, as part of the publication process, publishers will often request that you transfer copyright or assign an exclusive right to publish, in the form of a Copyright Transfer Agreement or Contributor’s agreement. While most publishers allow you to keep the rights to distribute your own final version of your published work following peer-review, there are often certain conditions on this reuse. See our using your own publications in your thesis guide for a list of academic publishers and details of their policies on reproducing material.

If you do reuse you work in your thesis, make sure that you have cited the original source correctly (your article for example) and acknowledged yourself as author. Where possible you could also provide a link. This also applies to ideas which you have previously published elsewhere.

Students with disabilities or specific learning differences can request alternative formats and the library can source these for you. For example, students with a visual impairment can request large-print copies of textbooks. To access this support contact Student Disability and Inclusion, who will work with the library to provide you with the resources you need for your studies.

You can also 'create a request' for alternative formats directly through Library Search.

For Word document transcript click here.

Students also have access to Blackboard Ally for course material and to Claro Software and ClaroRead.

Further Resources

Exceptions to copyright - Guidance from the Intellectual Property Office on the exceptions to copyright that allow limited use of copyright works without the permission of the copyright owner:

Copyright user - An independent online resource aimed at making UK Copyright Law accessible to everyone.

Creative Commons - Enables the sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools and licenses.


Acknowledgement: this work, "Copyright for researchers", is based on content created by University of Kent Copyright Guidance by Morrison, Chris and Groth-Seary, Angela, used under CC BY 4.0

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