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Copyright for theses

When publishing your thesis you need to ensure you have cleared any copyright and permissions and have thought about the terms under which you make it available for others to use.

If you are publishing material from your thesis, whether before or after submission, you need to understand whether you can reproduce the material.

If you are publishing material prior to submission it is essential that you understand how you can then use it in your final submission.

Using copyrighted material in your thesis

You should try to use free content wherever possible in your thesis. If you must use copyrighted material, ensure you seek permission from the copyright owner.

Most theses are now published as eTheses, and are made public on White Rose eTheses Online. Therefore you need to be sure that you have permission to use any copyrighted material – including images, video, quotes, and trademarks – or have removed it in the version you upload.

You can use copyrighted material in the version that is not made public (the version you submit for assessment), as long as the use is fair to the copyright owner and is crucial to your argument.

Publishing material from your thesis

If you want to include your published work in your thesis, or publish work based on your thesis, you must consider who owns the copyright. Publishers will often require authors to assign copyright to them. If you sign a contract with a publisher, check to see whether you have the right to reproduce your material.

Check any copyright agreements carefully. If you publish prior to submission of your thesis, and the publisher retains copyright, you may not be able to reproduce this material in your final thesis.

The University recommends that PhD students make their thesis available under a Creative Commons licence (open access). Making your thesis available without a licence can cause confusion because terms of reuse are not specified.

Publishing prior to submission

If you would like to publish prior to submission of your thesis you should:

  • Publish as open access where possible.
  • Provide the publishers with a licence to publish.
  • Negotiate with publishers for the right to re-use material in your thesis.

Publishing after submission

If you would like to publish after submission of your thesis you should:

  • Check with the publisher that they are happy for you to reproduce material that is already available online in your thesis.
  • Publish as open access where possible.
  • You may want to apply an embargo to your thesis, restricting access for a set period of time to allow for publishing.

When dealing with publishers you will be asked for the signature of the copyright owner. You can sign this agreement on the University’s behalf. You may also be able to sign on behalf of your co-authors, but you should ask their permission and check with the publisher that this is acceptable.

For more information see the University’s guidance on ethesis preparation, and copyright for publishing.