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Theses: Copyright

Information about theses at Southampton: thesis templates, guidance on e-theses, how to find theses
During the Covid-19 pandemic, special arrangements are in place for the deposit of the final version of your thesis.
Please see the updated guidance in the Extraordinary Quality Handbook for final thesis submission and our practical tips for deposit during Covid-19 for more information

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 pending further investigation.

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Copyright - who owns what

You, the student, owns the copyright of the thesis.

However anything that was created by someone else, called third-party copyrighted material, still belongs to the people who created it. To use this material in your thesis you will need to have permission from the copyright holder or be allowed to use it as 'fair dealing'.

You will also need permission to re-use any of your own text, diagrams, extracts and data from previously published journal articles if you signed over your copyright to the publisher.

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

Please note: while you should make best efforts to get permissions to reuse material, you will not be disadvantaged if permission is not granted or you cannot trace the copyright holder. You should not pay any fees to reuse copyrighted material. If the material is important to your argument, use it in your thesis. The outcome of your examination will not be affected in any way. See below for what to do if you have not been able to secure permission.

Asserting your own copyright on your thesis

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.

Fair Dealing: 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.

See also "Copyright and Theses" video You will need to sign in to view

How to get permission to reuse material


Many journal publishers use a service called the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). Getting permission to reuse material from journal articles is relatively straightforward if a publisher uses the CCC.

If there are not links to permissions or reuse on the article's or book's webpage, you will have to contact the publisher's permissions and right's department. If the copyright holder does not use the CCC or does not have a webform to fill in, you will have to send an email. We have produced templates for requesting permissions for you to use.

Museums, galleries, archives

Many museums and galleries have a section on their website on reuse of their material. In many cases they will have a blanket permission or licence for reuse in scholarly activities. For example the National Gallery has a scholarly waiver and material on the Natural History Museum website is covered by the Open Government Licence. They often will give a form of words they want you to use to acknowledge their permission and/or have guidelines on how you reference their material, for example see the NHM requests you put © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London. Licensed under the Open Government Licence.

If the museum/gallery/archive does not have a blanket licence/waiver or does not have a webform to fill in, you will have to send an email. We have produced templates for requesting permissions for you to use.

More information

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

See also "Third Party Copyright" video

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, 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.

Please see our guidance on submitting a redacted thesis during the Covid-19 pandemic if you are thinking of removing material to an appendix.

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