Including third party copyright material in your thesis


As an electronic version of your thesis is going to be made available online you will need to seek permission if you want to include any 3rd party copyright material, e.g. extracts from publications such as books or journals, or illustrations such as images, maps, photographs, tables etc..

Traditionally it has been accepted that 3rd party copyright material can be included in the print version of a thesis without seeking permission, although it would be good academic practice to do this. However, this is not the case if the thesis is going to be made available online.

Please note that while students are being asked to make best efforts to seek permission to include third party copyright material in the electronic version of their thesis you will not be penalised if it is not possible to gain permission, either because permissions are not granted, or because it would either be too onerous or too expensive to obtain permissions. This simply means that you will not be able to make your thesis available online. The outcome of your examination will not be affected in any way. No student will be required to make any payments to copyright holders for material they wish to include in their thesis.

What you need to seek permission for

If the third party copyright material within your thesis consists of a short quotation from a published work and you have acknowledged and referenced it adequately it will probably not be necessary to seek permission from the copyright holder. However, copyright law does not define what is meant by a short extract. If in doubt, it is best to seek permission.

Ideally you should seek permission to include 3rd party copyright material in your thesis as you go along rather than at the point of writing up your thesis. 

If you intend to include material that you yourself have published, e.g. journal articles, you need to check if the publisher will permit you to include these as part of your thesis. The easiest way to do this is by contacting the publisher directly and checking. Most publishers will permit this. A sample permission seeking template is available.

How to seek permission for 3rd party material

To seek permission to include 3rd party material within the electronic version of your thesis you need to contact the rights holder. This may be the author of a work, a publisher, an illustrator etc. In the case of material from books and journals your first course of action should be to contact the publisher. Many publishers give details on their web site of how to seek permission and who to contact. Look for information on rights/permissions/copyright clearance. If the publisher does not hold the rights to the work they should forward your enquiry to whoever does.

Once you have established who to contact you can use this permission seeking template to form the basis of a letter or e-mail to the rights holder asking permission to include the material in the electronic version of your thesis. 

If the rights holder does not reply immediately you may choose to contact them again. However, note that you may not deem a lack of response as permission to go ahead.

What to do if permission is granted

If a copyright holder indicates that permission has been granted you should indicate this at the appropriate point in your thesis, e.g. 'Permission to reproduce this ... has been granted by...'. You should keep a copy of any letters or e-mails you received from rights holders.

What to do if permission is not granted

If you need to include 3rd party copyright material in your thesis and are unable to obtain permission or are asked to pay to do this you will not be able to make the full version of the thesis publicly available online. You need to select the option on the Thesis Access Declaration form to restrict access to the electronic version of your thesis because of copyright restrictions. However, you are still required to deposit an electronic copy of your thesis which will be held securely.

 When you come to deposit your thesis you have two options:

1. Deposit two copies on CD-ROM/memory stick - one the full version with all 3rd party retained, and a second edited version with this material removed. The edited electronic version will be made publicly available - they full version will not.

2. Deposit only the full version with 3rd party copyright material retained on CD-ROM/memory stick. This will not be made publicly available.

See the relevant section on the Thesis Format page for information on how to create an edited version of your thesis.

Other important information

Note that it may be necessary to restrict access to your thesis on the grounds that third party permissions have not been granted in addition to requesting an embargo in relation to, e.g. future publication of the thesis.

Help and advice

If in doubt about whether you need to get permission to include any material within your thesis it is always best to err on the side of caution and assume that you do. If you have specific queries you can send theses to and the Theses Services staff will do their best to help you.