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Copyright, Copyright is legal protection for an author/creator which restricts the copying of an original work they have created.

Whether you are a PhD student writing your thesis or an academic publishing a scholarly paper, you need to know about copyright law.

Disseminating research outputs is essential to the success of the institution and its researchers. However, it is important that this dissemination takes account of copyright law, and that researchers act according to the licences or conditions agreed with publishers, funding agencies and other relevant parties.

General copyright guidance and FAQs can be found on the Copyright basics page.

A glossary of copyright terms is also available.

Explore the expandable sections below for research related copyright guidance.

The information contained within these pages is intended as a general guideline, and an interpretation of current copyright issues. It is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. University of Cumbria Library Services gratefully acknowledge the work of Neil Sprunt, University of Manchester, whose copyright guidance is made available for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International licence.

  • FAQs

    I am presenting at a conference. Do I need to worry about copyright?

    Yes. Copyright guidance concerning the incorporation of other people’s work into your research still applies. You should ensure you have permission to use any third party materials if they are in copyright. Many conference presentations are recorded and shared online making any breaches of copyright a higher risk. However, you may be able to use extracts of works under fair dealing exceptions.

    Can I use text and data mining for my research at the University?

    Yes, UK copyright law allows researchers to make copies of works ‘for text and data analysis’. This means that where a user has lawful access to a work (eg an e-journal or database subscription) they can make a copy of it for the purpose of carrying out a computational analysis of anything recorded in the work.

    The exception only applies under the following conditions:

    • the analysis must be for the purpose of non-commercial research
    • the copy is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgment (unless this is practically impossible)

    Copyright is infringed if the copy made is transferred to another person, or it is used for purposes different than those permitted by law (although the researcher could ask the owner for permission to do either of these things). Also, copies made for text and data analysis cannot be sold or let for hire.

    Importantly, the law cannot be overridden by contract. Contractual terms which set out to restrict or prevent the doing of the acts permitted under law are unenforceable.

    In order to be make my thesis open access will I be required to obtain permission from the copyright owners of any third party materials included within my thesis?

    Yes. Whilst you will own the copyright of the thesis itself, you will not own the copyright of any third party materials used within it. Therefore, unless such material is out of copyright or covered by a copyright exception, you will need to obtain permission from the copyright owners in order to use third party content within your thesis. Alternatively, you can publish a redacted version of your thesis if the third party material is not covered by a copyright exception or you are unable to obtain permission. 

    How should I go about getting permission from a rights holder to use their material?

    If you know who to contact to request permission, you can adapt this permission request form to suit your needs. Contact if you need any advice on seeking permission.

    My thesis contains third-party copyright materials and I can't get permission from the copyright holder. Can I still make my thesis Open Access?

    No, you will be unable to make this version of your thesis freely and openly available through the institutional repository. You will need to request an exception to the University’s policy during examination submission.

    What if somebody makes a copyright complaint against a University of Cumbria eThesis?

    eTheses are available via the University’s institutional repository, Insight. The Insight team has a well-defined takedown process to protect individuals and the University from legal proceedings if any item of work attracts a complaint from a third party. Please contact if you have any concerns.

    Can I photocopy an entire print thesis?

    No. Only a portion of a print thesis may be copied by a Library user for research and private study. 5% is often recommended as a guideline.

    What rights do I have to use my journal article after publication?

    This depends on the contract you signed with the publisher, as this sets out which rights you signed-over to them, and which rights you retained.

    If you are unsure, contact the publisher directly for clarification. You can also read the current agreement displayed on the publisher's website regarding publishing and ownership, and assume you retained the same permissions. A copy of the copyright agreement form is often available in the ‘for authors' section of the publisher's website.

    Can I give my work a Creative Commons Licence?

    If you retain the copyright, you can license your work using any of the Creative Commons Licences available.

    If your work contains any third party copyright material, you must ensure you have the copyright holder's permission to make their work available under a Creative Commons licence unless an exception to copyright applies.

    The Creative Commons website provides detailed information regarding the various licences available. The site also provides a licence selector tool to assist you in choosing the most applicable licence.

    Can I upload and share my articles online using websites such as ResearchGate and

    Possibly, though we usually advise caution, as the self-archiving policies of some publishers do not allow sharing of work on for-profit or commercial repositories, which both these websites are. We also recommend checking the version of the work that publishers permit sharing, if they allow sharing via these platforms – it’s more likely to be the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) that can be shared, rather than the final publisher’s version. The AAM is the version of the paper at the point of acceptance, following peer-review, but not yet formatted for publication. Please contact  with the details of the paper/s you’d like to share and they will check the publisher’s self-archiving policies on your behalf.

    Please contact with any copyright queries.

  • Electronic Theses

    Copyright is an important consideration when publishing your thesis. Although in most cases you own the intellectual property (IP) in your thesis, it may also contain third-party copyright materials such as photographs and diagrams. In such cases you must ensure that you have the permission of the rights holder to include these materials, as your final thesis will be made available to others via the University’s institutional repository. 

    Since postgraduate research students at the University of Cumbria are required to submit an electronic version of their examination and final corrected thesis, we strongly advise that you request permission to use third-party material at the time of writing your thesis. If the copyright permissions are not forthcoming from rights holders, the third-party material might have to be removed (redacted) from the final published electronic thesis.

    See the Your Thesis section for more detail.


  • Scholarly Works

    As an author normally you own the copyright in the material you have created. However, on some occasions in which the material has been created by an employee in the course of their employment, the employer is the first owner of copyright in the work unless there is an agreement to the contrary. See the University of Cumbria's Intellectual Property Policy.

    Signing a publisher’s licence agreement normally transfers copyright to your publisher. If you wish to post your articles online you should review the conditions of any agreements you are asked to sign.

    Open Access publishing does not require academic authors to give up their copyright in the same way as traditional publishing. Depending on the licensing terms used for publication, Open Access material can be downloaded for offline reading, printed and distributed to students, be open to automated text and data mining, and so on. See the Open Research section.

    Note that publishing your work on an Open Access basis does not involve giving up all rights in your work. In fact, as the licensing terms are looser than the "all rights reserved" model, publishing your work on an Open Access basis gives you more control of how your work is distributed. It allows you to post your work in an online repository, re-use it in other publications, and so on, while freeing other users of your work from worries that downloading your work might be illegal.

    The Creative Commons CC-BY licence is normally recommended for Open Access publishing and public funding bodies in the UK are increasingly requiring its use. This licence grants users the freedom to share and re-use published content as long as the original author is attributed. Find out more about the various Creative Commons licences.

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