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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

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?’  


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.