UCL Library Services


Including copyright material in your thesis


Your thesis may contain material protected by copyright. This could be material you have authored and had published the copyright for which you have assigned, for example to a publisher; or it could be other published material, the copyright for which is held by another individual or body. The latter is known as third party copyright and may include extracts from publications such as books or journals, or illustrations such as images, maps, photographs, tables etc. These examples should not be considered exhaustive.

Traditionally it has been accepted that copyright material can be included in the print version of a thesis without the permission of the rights holder. However, this is not the case if the thesis is going to be made available online.

Ideally you should seek permission to include copyright material in your thesis as you go along rather than leaving it until you are preparing the final draft. Workshops to help you understand copyright and access restriction in relation to theses in general and electronic theses in particular are held on a regular basis in conjunction with the Graduate School.

Material you have published yourself

If you intend to include material that you yourself have published, such as 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 explaining what you would like to do. Most publishers will permit this: we suggest you use wording such as this.

Where possible, please indicate in your thesis that you have obtained permission to include material you have had published. Suggested wording is given in the What to do if permission is granted section below.

Third party copyright material

You will need to seek permission if you want to include any third party copyright material such as extracts from books, journals or other publications, or illustrations such as images, maps, photographs, tables, etc. Under certain conditions, images from third party copyright material can be made available as defined in the 'The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Quotation and Parody) Regulations 2014' (Directive 2011/77/EU).

Please note that while you are asked to make best efforts to seek permission to include third party copyright material in the electronic version of your thesis, you will not be penalised if it is not possible to clear copyright either because permissions are not granted or because it would either be too onerous or too expensive to obtain permissions. This will not affect the outcome of your examination in any way.

If you cannot clear copyright for all material included in your thesis, please see the information on restricting access to your thesis.

How to seek permission for third party material

To seek permission to include third 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 form of wording as 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, a lack of response should not be regarded as permission to include third party copyright material.

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 third 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. This will not affect the outcome of your examination in any way. Please see the section on restricting access for further information.

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 any additional queries, please send these to the UCL Open Access Team.