Copyright and your thesis

Using content in your thesis

You can reproduce almost any content as part of your thesis if you only want to submit it for assessment. This covers you under Fair Dealing for Study or Research provisions.

If you plan to publish your thesis or make it open access, think about copyright material included in your thesis. You will be limited to using content that:

  • you have created
  • is covered by an exception in the Copyright Act
  • is out of copyright or the creator has waived their rights
  • you have permission to use
  • is licensed under Creative Commons
  • is licensed or permissible for your uses through website terms and conditions
  • you link to or embed to allow users to access the content themselves.

Learn more about considerations to make when publishing your thesis.

Thesis by publication

If you've completed your thesis by publication and you want to make your thesis open access, think about the submission process to make sure you don't breach any of your publishing agreements.

When you submit material to be published, you must complete, click through or sign a publishing agreement. In that agreement, you may have transferred, assigned or given the copyright in your work over to the publisher. That gives them the right to control any future reproductions or publications of your work.

Your publishing contract will state:

  • if you can upload a copy of your article or chapter to your institutional repository
  • which version you are allowed to upload
  • any other conditions required, such as specific attributions you must make

Always keep a copy of your contracts, and read them thoroughly. Often you will transfer the majority of your rights to the publisher, but crucial rights - like being able to upload a copy into your institutional repository - are granted back to you later on in the agreement.

Contact the publisher if you:

  • didn't keep a copy of your publishing agreement
  • are unable to find a copy
  • don't remember signing or agreeing to one

What is the difference between a pre-print, post-print and published version?

The different versions referred to in contracts are:

  • pre-print - the version you submitted to the publisher
  • post-print - the edited version that they sent back to you
  • published - the final published version that appears on the publisher's website or in their print publication

What if my contract stops me from doing something?

If your contract locks you into something that you’re not happy with, you need to ask for or negotiate a permission to do what you want with your work.

We can help with seeking permission and negotiating contracts.

Publishing before submission

If you can publish before submitting your thesis, you guarantee the publisher's first right of publication.

Read your publishing or author contract carefully to see if the publisher will restrict making your thesis available through an institutional repository, by:

  • an embargo period
  • the type of version you can make available
  • a particular acknowledgement you must make.

Publishing after submission

If you can't publish before submission, you can still preserve the publisher's right of first publication. To do this, you need to restrict access to your submitted thesis, then contact DRO after you've published.

If you already made your thesis open access, it doesn't mean you can't publish it. You will need to inform the publisher when you submit your application that the article/chapter comes from your thesis and is available online through your institutional research repository.

Presenting your thesis at a conference

Check your publishing agreement to see if you require your publisher's permission before using your published content at a conference.

If you plan to publish your thesis or parts of your thesis in the future, you will need to advise the publisher:

  • what you presented at the conference
  • if your presentation was published as part of the conference proceedings