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Copyright and your thesis
Queen’s PhD students registered from September 2016 onwards are now required to upload an electronic copy of their final thesis in addition to submitting the standard two print copies.
Making your thesis available electronically has a number of benefits for you as the author and for the University as a research institution. However, there are copyright implications that you must be aware of. This guide explains the most important copyright issues that you need to consider. It is not a comprehensive guide to copyright law.
What is copyright?
Copyright is the legal right that protects the use of your work once your idea has been physically expressed.
Copyright describes both the creative work you have made and the law that protects that work.
Copyright protection arises automatically as soon as your work is created. Unlike a patent or trademark, you don’t need to register your work or pay a fee to ensure your rights are protected by copyright.
When do I need to ask permission?
There may be times when you need to think about asking the copyright holder for permission to use their work in your thesis.
If you use more than a reasonable amount of someone else’s work in your thesis you may need to ask for permission.
If you are using a whole work that belongs to someone else you should seek permission. This could mean you are using an image, a photograph, a poem or a map, it doesn’t have to mean an entire article; these standalone items are considered to be whole works.
Asking for permission really comes down to individual judgement - you need to determine whether you’ve used someone else’s work beyond the permitted exceptions and need to seek permission. It’s a personal responsibility.
What copyright enables you to do
There are times when you can use a copyright work without permission.
There are very specific ways that you can use a copyright work without needing to get permission and these uses are known as exceptions to copyright.
Exceptions or permitted uses include using a copyright work for research and private study; Criticism, review, quotation and news reporting; Caricature, parody or pastiche.
So for example if you are writing your thesis you can include quotations and excerpts from other works, as long as you acknowledge the copyright holder.
How do I ask for permission?
Ideally you should do this while you are writing your thesis rather than waiting until the end. To request permission you need to identify the copyright owner. It may be the author, a publisher or a photographer. Many publishers will give information on their website about who to contact for permission. Look our for words such as rights/ permissions/ copyright clearance.
In your correspondence remember to include who you are, your institution, the item you are seeking permission to use and why (your thesis).
It’s vitally important that you receive permission in writing; verbal permission will not suffice. Remember to keep copies of the replies you receive.
If you are using any of these exceptions or permitted uses, your use must be in accordance with fair dealing. Fair dealing means that your use is fair, so in the case of quotation you only use a reasonable amount and you must always acknowledge the copyright holder.
Fair dealing involves some interpretation because the word fair isn’t defined in legal terms. You should ask yourself whether you’re only using as much as you need, and crucially ask yourself whether your use will damage the commercial interests of the copyright holder. If you think that your use of another person’s work will have a negative effect on their ability to make money from the work should they wish to do so then your use is not fair.
For more information on copyright and your e-thesis please contact the Institutional Repository Officer:
T: 02890 976163