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Theses: Copyright

This guide is intended to provide advice to PGR students on their eThesis

Copyright and your thesis

All Queen’s PGR students are required to upload an electronic copy of their final thesis to Pure. Pure is the University's Current Research Information System. All PGRs will have an account in Pure.

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. 

For more information on copyright and your e-thesis, please contact Rebecca Clarke, Open Research Librarian. 

What is copyright?

UK Copyright Law: Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Copyright is the legal right that protects the use of your work once your idea has been physically expressed

Copyright in the UK is free and automatic Lifetime of the author plus 70 years 

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.

Copyright protects your work and stops others from using it without your permission.

You automatically get copyright protection within the UK when you create:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustration and photography
  • original non-literary written work, such as software, web content and databases
  • sound and music recordings
  • film and television recordings
  • broadcasts
  • the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works

You can mark your work with the copyright symbol (©), your name and the year of creation. Whether you mark the work or not doesn’t affect your protection level.

How does it work?

Copyright prevents people from:

  • copying your work
  • distributing copies of it, whether free of charge or for sale
  • renting or lending copies of your work
  • performing, showing or playing your work in public
  • making an adaptation of your work
  • putting it on the internet

Exceptions to copyright

In your thesis, you will use other people’s work, for example, quotations, photos, maps, diagrams, tables, musical scores etc, which is protected via copyright. This is referred to as using third-party copyright. 

You are allowed to copy limited extracts of works when the use is non-commercial research or private study without seeking permission from the copyrighted author. 

Such use is only permitted when it is ‘fair dealing’, and copying the whole work would not generally be considered fair dealing.

The purpose of this exception is to allow students and researchers to make limited copies of all types of copyrighted works for non-commercial research or private study.

In assessing whether your use of the work is permitted or not, you must assess if there is any financial impact on the copyright owner because of your use. Where the impact is not significant, the use may be acceptable.

If your use is for non-commercial research, you must ensure that the work you reproduce is supported by a sufficient acknowledgement.

Fair dealing

If you are using the exception non-commercial research or private study, your use must be in accordance with fair dealing.

‘Fair dealing’ is a legal term used to establish whether a use of copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright. There is no statutory definition of fair dealing. The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work?

Factors that have been identified by the courts as relevant in determining whether a particular dealing with a work is fair include:

  • does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it, causing the owner to lose revenue, then it is not likely to be fair
  • is the amount of the work taken reasonable and appropriate? Was it necessary to use the amount that was taken? Usually only part of a work may be used

The relative importance of any one factor will vary according to the case in hand and the type of dealing in question.