Archiving your thesis: Copyright and e-theses

Copyright and e-theses

In the expandable sections below you will find descriptions of the different elements that comprise your Thesis Deposit Form.  The 5 boxes explain - in plain English - the key points of copyright and what this means for you, in this new era of open digital scholarship.  Specifically, the sections highlight what you own, what you can and can't do, what you must attribute and how your work will be made discoverable.

You, the author, are the first owner of copyright in your thesis.

Depositing your thesis in BURA doesn't transfer copyright ownership to the University - you merely grant a perpetual non-exclusive licence to the University when you agree to deposit your thesis.

Copyright can be assigned to third parties, eg publishers, institutions or organisations, and it's important that you don't transfer your copyright unknowingly.

Where your research is sponsored or commissioned by an external organisation, employer or conducted on placement, you may be asked to sign a contract or confidentiality agreement, which may have implications for the future dissemination of your thesis if there are clauses relating to the research outcomes and output.

Before signing any agreements, you should consult your supervisor in the first instance and/or the Research Support and Development Office (RSDO). RSDO's Contracts and IP Section will be able to advise on the implications of contractual clauses and recommend the most suitable course of action.

As part of your research, you may review and include third party copyright material in the body of your thesis or in its appendices.

It's your responsibility to secure all necessary consents at the time you are conducting your research. These now must include permission to submit your thesis for examination electronically, as this is now the compulsory mode of submission. You must also obtain permission to include third party material in the final version archived in a public-facing open access repository. Examples of content that would require permission include company documents, film clips, images or music scores.

This is because in UK copyright law, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to control the reproduction or dissemination of their work in electronic format to the public, except where covered by statutory exceptions in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, under fair dealing. You may not disseminate unpublished work in your online thesis without the explicit consent of the copyright owner.

When obtaining consent, it should be in writing or email, and you should obtain a warranty that the person granting consent is authorised to do so. As a rule, published material is generally owned or controlled by the publisher so copyright owners are much easier to trace and to contact. Some material may have multiple layers of copyright, eg a film may contain music, dialogue. etc which may need separate clearance if the rights are not all managed by a sole agent. For further advice contact the Copyright Officer.

In addition to third party copyright content, you may need to use sensitive data, or may wish to reproduce confidential information.

Where information is not in the public domain, extra care must be taken to secure consents, as you may breach the law of confidential information, as well as copyright law. With sensitive or personal data there may be data protection or ethical implications. Your supervisor will be able to advise further.

It may be that your thesis will need to be embargoed for a period.

Your thesis is currently subject to the Freedom of Information Act, as the University is a public authority as defined in the Act.

This means that unless your thesis meets the statutory criteria for exemption under this, or another Act of Parliament and is therefore embargoed, we must supply a copy of your thesis to anyone who requests it. For advice see Freedom of Information.

Where your thesis contains commercially exploitable designs or other content, it may not be suitable for online deposit, and may need to be embargoed.

If your thesis contains enabling disclosure of a new invention, your supervisor will normally have identified patentable content well before submission, and will recommend the best course of action. Strict confidentiality procedures apply to these. RSDO can advise.

Further copyright information