Library Services


Information about your own copyright

All original work is protected by Copyright as soon as it is recorded regardless of whether it is published or not.

This includes material produced during a student's course of study at UCL and materials produced by UCL staff. For more information on this see What is copyright?

There is a UCL IP policy covering the Intellectual Property Rights of both staff and students, which explains the relationships between each group and UCL in terms of the ownership and reuse of their work:

You should take the time to read the policy, but these are some of the main points:


"As a general principle, UCL recognises the student as owner of any IP he/she produces while a registered student of UCL. This principle may be subject to variation in the case of externally sponsored or collaborative work..."

Source: UCL IP Policy

Collaborative working and external funding are common arrangements in some research projects across UCL. If this applies to your research work, then you will be asked to assign the IP rights in your work to UCL. This should be discussed with you at the beginning of your course or at the beginning of the relevant project. These arrangements are made within each department.


UCL claims its statutory right to own any IPR created by its staff in the course of their duties (IPR Policy 2.1.1), including copyright. However it waives this right in relation to two important categories: Scholarly materials and teaching materials. Section 2.1.3 of the IPR Policy lists some specific types of material created by staff in which UCL does claim IP rights, regardless of the waivers, for example patentable inventions, computer programs and databases. 

UCL also retains a broad licence to reuse scholarly and teaching materials in all formats created by staff in the course of their duties. The details can be found in paragraph 2.3 of UCL's IP Policy.

In cases where IP resulting from your work is developed commercially there are standard revenue sharing arrangements which apply (see paragraph 4.1 of the IPR Policy).

Protecting your own work and allowing reuse

As a work is protected by copyright automatically, it is not necessary to take any further action to bring it into copyright protection.

If you are willing to allow others to reuse your work, you may wish to consider using a Creative Commons Licence. There is a choice of CC licences giving permissions for different types of reuse and you may choose one which suits your needs. This is particularly useful if your work is to be made available on a web site.

By using a Creative Commons licence you do not give up your claim to copyright in your work. In particular you may continue to assert your right to be acknowledged as the author and you may publish your work as you choose.

Should you change your mind, however, you will not be able to withdraw the licence from anyone who is already reusing your work in line with the terms of the Creative Commons licence you have previously applied to your work.

Some funding organisations which require open access publication of your research work also specify the use of a specific Creative Commons Licence.

Posting your work on the internet

Sharing content we create is common practice. Many of us will upload photos or video clips to sites like Flickr or YouTube. It is worth taking a moment to consider copyright implications and also the reuse policy of the site before uploading your content.

Are you required to grant the site owners a licence to reuse your work for example and are you happy with that?

Flickr allows an individual to decide how their photographs may be viewed and reused, if at all. In addition it includes the option to add a Creative Commons licence to any of your photographs. This in turn means that anyone looking for reusable images can search for photographs with a CC licence attached.

Information for academic authors on publication

Assigning your copyright

When you publish papers in academic journals or books there is generally a contractual agreement between the author and publisher which determines what happens to copyright in the work. It is a good idea to ask to see the agreement at an early point

You may be asked to assign (transfer) the copyright in your work to the publisher. By assigning your copyright you lose any control on how it is reproduced in the future. You may find you need the publisher’s permission if you want to reuse your own work subsequently. Therefore it is worth considering whether there are alternatives available which allow you to retain the copyright, such as granting the publisher a licence to publish the work. You should try to negotiate the details of the agreement with the publisher if you are unhappy with the details.

Regardless of whether you retain the copyright in your work, the publisher owns the copyright in the typographical arrangement of the published version which lasts for 25 years.

Copyright and theses

From the copyright perspective a doctoral thesis is an unpublished work prepared for the purposes of examination. The inclusion of extracts from copyright works may be covered by the fair dealing exception for purposes of instruction and examinations as long as it is "fair dealing". Third party material should always be accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement.

If however you go on to publish your thesis - either commercially or within an open access web site - then the exception for instruction and examinations no longer applies.

A different exception, such as the quotations exception may apply but otherwise permission will have to be obtained from the copyright owner. More information about theses and depositing them in UCL Discovery is available.

Clearing copyright for materials included in papers/manuscripts for publication

You should consider seeking permission for any extracts from third party material you intend to include in your work at an early stage because this can take longer than anticipated. 

You should also check with your publisher about responsibilities for clearing copyright in third party materials and whether they offer any assistance.

UCL does not provide a clearance service for this type of re-use, although we may be able to offer advice on how to trace copyright holders.

When applying for copyright permission, it is important to be specific about the use you intend to make of the material, for example whether your work will be made available on the internet. An exchange of emails with the copyright owner may be sufficient as evidence of permission.

If you have any queries or need further advice please contact: copyright@ucl.ac.uk