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Your thesis may contain copyright material that belongs to someone other than yourself ("third-party copyright"). This may be in the form of diagrams, photographs or reproductions of your own published articles. If you are unsure whether your thesis contains third party copyright material or whether you can use an exception, please discuss this with your supervisor in the first instance.  

If your thesis does contain third-party copyright material then you are responsible for seeking the permission of the copyright holder to reuse the material in your thesis, especially if you intend to make it openly available. This permission should include the rights to make the materials available through the University's institutional repository. 

There is more information on the Copyright and theses libguide

The flowchart below provides a decision making process that will help students determine the best course of action when dealing with third-party copyright in their thesis. 

There is further information on copyright considerations, including an overview of the fair dealing exceptions on the Legal Services Office website and on the OSC's copyright section

When is permission required?  

Unless material is available under an open licence, is in the public domain (which means that any copyright that did exist has lapsed), specific terms of use permit reuse or you can rely on one of the copyright exceptions, you will need to obtain permission to reuse material in your thesis.   

The copyright exceptions of fair dealing or reuse for the purpose of criticism or review may be available for short extracts from books journal articles, fiction works, newspapers and magazines. You are advised to seek permission for all other material.   

There is more information on the Legal Service Office’s website on the copyright exceptions, which can be found on the FAQ entitled ‘Are there any exceptions to copyright protection in law where copying and use of a copyright work is allowed without permission from, or payment to, the copyright owner/holder, i.e. without infringing copyright?’  

Type of third-party copyright material Further details Is permission required?
Short quotations from books

Short extracts of text from a single published non-fiction work with full citation may be reproduced without formal permission if not greater than 400 words in a single quotation, or up to a total of 800 words in a series of short quotations, none of which is longer that 300 words.short extracts of text from a single published non-fiction work

Only if the use is not considered 'fair dealing.'
Short quotations from journal articles, fiction, newspapers and magazines Single text extracts of less than 100 words or up to 300 words in a series of short quotations with full citation may be reproduced without formal permission. Only if the use is not considered 'fair dealing.'
Extracts from openly licenced materials/where copyright holder explicitly allows re-use without seeking permission. This applies to all types of copyright works, for example, reproducing an extract from a literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work, sound recording or film released by its copyright owner(s) under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY Licence), or a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial Licence (CC BY-NC Licence) or the UK Government’s Open Government Licence, or on website or other platform terms that permit reproduction in your dissertation. No permission required.
Out of copyright material If copyright no longer subsists in a work, it is said to be in the ‘public domain’ and no permission is required to copy or use that work or quotations, extracts or excerpts from it, but the source must be acknowledged.  Please note that ‘out-of-print’ works are not necessarily out-of-copyright.

The National Archives provides copyright duration charts for UK literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works. 

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) provides UK copyright duration information for sound recordings, films and the typographical arrangements of published literary, dramatic or musical work. 

For more detailed guidance for ascertaining the duration or term of copyright of a work and for foreign works can be found on the University of Cambridge Legal Services pages.

No permission required.
Long quotations. Quotations beyond the fair dealing limits set out in 'Short text quotations from books' and 'Short quotations from journal articles, fiction works, newspapers and magazines' require formal permission from the copyright owner. Permission is required. 
Figures, illustrations, charts, tables and maps.

Most academic publishers insist that fair dealing provisions do not apply to illustrations or figures, since each illustration or figure is treated as a separate copyright item, and therefore any reproduction requires formal permission from the copyright owner of the item. Permission is needed if the re-use is:

  • For exact reproduction of a previously published figure
  • For adapting, modifying or redrawing a previously published figure, illustrations etc., e.g. copying and replacing some data.

Permission is not required to redraw a previously published figure entirely, i.e. creating a new and unique figure with new data, does not require permission. Any source data or factual information must be credited.

If you are unsure whether you are adapting or redrawing entirely a new figure, you should exercise caution and seek permission. 

Permission is required. 

The government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has suggested that ‘fair dealing for the purpose of quotation’ may not necessarily apply to photographs, as any use may conflict with the copyright owner’s photographer’s normal exploitation of the work. Whilst ‘fair dealing for the purposes of criticism or review’ may apply, in light of the IPO caution, obtaining formal permission to reproduce another’s photograph in your dissertation is advised.

If using your own photographs or videos, you need to obtain consent from individuals who feature in the photographs or videos and from location owners for your photography or filming of objects on location.  If your photography or filming is of artwork located at museum or gallery, please refer to the Images of artwork/illustrations from museums or art galleries section. 

Permission is required. 
Images of artwork/illustrations from museums or art galleries. Permission is required for reproduction of artwork (paintings, sculptures, etc.) from its source.  Permission is required for both the artist’s copyright, which may be obtained from the artist, their agent or the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) representing some more prominent artists, and for the photographer’s copyright, usually dealt with by the source of the artwork image, e.g. museum or gallery. Permission is required. 
Unpublished material. There are no statutory fair dealing exceptions for quoting from unpublished material, including others’ unpublished dissertations. 

This means that you may not use quotations from unpublished works, including for the fair dealing purpose of criticism or review, without the permission of the copyright owner. Please be aware that unpublished works often have longer terms of copyright than other materials, most in the UK to the end of the calendar year 2039. See Out-of-copyright material.

Permission is required. 
Sources found on the internet.

Clear all use or remove the material from the body of the thesis and provide a link instead.

If you decide you need to keep the content imbedded in your thesis, you need to check who owns the copyright in the original work and obtain their permission. This is because nearly all material on the Internet and in social media is protected by copyright.  You are urged to exercise caution when contemplating use of images or other material found online. Often images and other material are posted without the knowledge or permission of the copyright owner, yet ignorance of this offers no defence for unauthorised use of copyright material.

Further, taking down offending material upon notice from copyright owners is almost always insufficient to forestall payment to the copyright owner of a licence fee for use of the content and a penalty fee for the unauthorised use or incurring legal action to do so.

However, linking to material that is lawfully available on the Internet should not raise any copyright issues. Ensure that each link opens in a new window and that you acknowledge the source of the link. 

Permission is required. 
Material written by you.

Unless your material has been published under an open licence, your publisher may allow re-use after specific embargo periods.  Should you not have your publishing agreement to hand, you will need to check with your publisher to confirm any terms that apply to use of the whole or extracts from the paper in your dissertation.

Nevertheless, if your previously published material contained extracts from other sources, e.g. figures, illustrations, tables or charts, you may need to obtain permissions from the copyright owners to reproduce those items in your online dissertation.

Permission is required (from your publisher)
Epigraphs, poems, song lyrics, music (including sheet and sound recordings), film/TV stills, video clips, audio clips, cartoons, software, advertisements and publicity material Permission is required to re-use these types of materials.  Permission is required. 

Obtaining permission from copyright holders  

Obtaining the permission of a copyright holder is sometimes referred to as ‘clearing permission’. There is more information about how to do this on the Legal Service Office website.  

The steps for clearing permissions are:  

  1. Identify the copyright holder.  

  1. Contact the copyright holder and request permission to reuse the material in your thesis.  

  1. Keep a record of your permissions.  If you wish, you can store your permissions correspondence in Apollo. The files will not be visible on your thesis record. 

There is more detailed information on the Legal Service Office website, under the FAQ ‘If there is no applicable exception to copyright infringement, how do I request permission from a copyright owner?’  

If permission is granted, remember to cite the third-party copyright material and include an acknowledgement/credit line in your thesis for each piece of third-party copyright material. The style guides for your thesis will provide guidance on acknowledging copyright holders and the appropriate credit line.   

If permission is not granted, then consider replacing the content with an alternative before your thesis is approved by the Degree Committee. You cannot make changes to your thesis once it has been approved by the Degree Committee.