Copyright matters for graduate research students


Your thesis and the University's research repository

Does deposit in the Research Repository count as ‘publishing’ the thesis?
  • Yes – when considering the use of 3rd party works without permission: i.e. by ‘communicating’ another person’s work online you may be infringing their exclusive right to do so.
  • No – in terms of your own work 
    • it is considered as ‘self-archiving’ by most publishers (who usually will not accept a work that has already been published elsewhere)
    • it is unlikely that your work will be published as it appears in the thesis: it may be more valuable to your career as a series of journal articles. If your material is to be published as a book, it will usually need sufficient adaptation to count as a separate work.

A temporary embargo (usually of up to 12 months) restricting access to your thesis can be applied if necessary; e.g. in the case of key findings that you may wish to keep confidential until formal publication or commercialisation under patent. You will need the permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies to apply an embargo to your thesis; the process is managed by the Graduate Centre.

Extended or permanent restrictions on access to theses is usually considered to be incompatible with the principle of making contributions to scholarship available to other researchers, but there are some circumstances in which parts of theses must be permanently embargoed, e.g. sacred or confidential content, or that dealing with national security. Discuss these matters with your supervisor, and seek the Dean’s approval for an embargo.

It is best practice to place sections that need to be restricted in an appendix wherever possible so that access to the main argument and findings may be preserved while protecting other material.

Management and suppression of third party content used without the copyright owner’s permission is your responsibility.

  •  It is repository policy that no more than an ‘insubstantial’ amount (usually considered to be no more than 1% or up to 400 words in a continuous segment of a work) of a third party copyright protected work can be placed online without permission from the copyright owner.
  • If you use more than an insubstantial amount of any work in your thesis it should be placed in a separate file so that access to the 3rd party content can be restricted when your thesis is uploaded to the repository.
  • You may want to create a log of 3rd party copyright material and the circumstances under which you are using it (with permission, under licences such as Creative Commons, etc); this is not a requirement under the regulations, simply a tool to help you manage the material.
  • If you have permission or a licence to use 3rd party content you should attach a copy to the electronic version of your thesis when you deposit it with the Library.