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Postgraduate Researchers: Copyright and your thesis

Copyright and your thesis

The flow chart below helps you prepare your theses for being made available on BURO, BU’s Open Access repository, which takes place once you have deposited your work in the library.  

For your viva you can use sections of someone else’s work in your thesis as long as all the material is relevant, and thoroughly cited and referenced.

After your viva when your thesis is made available on BURO, your work is held to a higher standard of copyright law, and you may need permission to use material which belongs to someone else.

Using other people's work in your thesis

Do I have third party copyright in my thesis?

Have I used any:

  • Sections of text (beyond short quotations)
  • Images or photographs
  • Maps or tables
  • Multimedia

which I have not created myself?

Any third party material needs to be properly cited and referenced throughout your work.

Any visual material requires particular attention, as you may be reproducing the entirety of someone else’s work – see our guidance.

If there is no third party material in your thesis, it can be made available on BURO without any futher steps being taken relating to copyright. 

If you do have third party material in your thesis, is it available for use without permission?

For example:

If any third party materal is available for use ,  it can be made available in the thesis without further permissions or redaction. 

All third party material must be thoroughly cited and referenced.

If not, you may need to seek permission to this material You can redact material which you do not have permission to use, but it is much better to make your thesis available in its entirety.

How to seek permission

For books – write to the publisher (you can find the address on the back of the title page in the book or on the publisher’s website)

For journals – go to the journal webpage and look for contact information for ‘permissions’. If in doubt email the editor.

For web based material – look for the organization or person responsible for the webpage.

For materials from museums or galleries – contact the institution by email or telephone.

If permission is receieved

If there are any stipulations for how the third party wishes to be cited, you should follow this in your text.

If you are asked for payment you should not respond but contact your faculty library team for further advice.

You should keep a complete record of when you received permissions.

If I don’t hear anything

After 6 weeks repeat the request. If there is still no reply you can discuss with your Faculty Library Team whether the material should be redacted from your thesis on BURO

If permission is refused You should discuss this with your library team, and the material will be removed from the public version of your thesis.


Using images in your thesis

All images used in your thesis may possibly be considered to be a complete (100%) reproduction of someone else’s work, and so may not exempt under the exception for quotation 

Images in your thesis should:

  • Be directly of relevance and be something you discuss or analysis

If you can choose between a high or a low resolution image, you should select the low resolution.

Copyright Free Images

Always consider Copyright:

  • Cite and reference any images you use to acknowledge author and attribute source.
  • Check that any images you choose to use ideally have a Creative Commons CC0 license or CC-BY-4.0 license. Check the Creative Commons (CC) website for a list of CC licenses for details.

The websites listed below include selections of copyright free images:

Check carefully before using images, contact a BU Librarian if you're unsure and request our advice.

Exception for Quotation

This is to be found in Section 30(1ZA) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and applies the concept of ‘fair dealing’.

There is not one single definition of what counts as  ‘fair dealing’, but you should ask yourself:

  • Would I consider it fair if someone were to make use of my work in this way.
  • Am I reusing material which is directly relevant to my thesis and which I comment upon and/ or analyse.
  • Have I credited the author and source adequately throughout?

Images are harder to account for by using the exception for quotation, as usually 100% of the image will be reproduced, unlike quoting a small section of text.