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Higher degree theses students


  • Always reference and acknowledge the source of copyright material in your thesis.
  • It’s generally okay to copy material when you are researching your thesis (this is a fair dealing for the purpose of research or study). Do not copy more than a reasonable amount, for example ten per cent of the words or one chapter of a book, one article per journal issue.
  • University forms require you to declare that you have sought permission to include copyright material in your thesis. Plan for this early in your research.
  • When you submit your thesis to espace (Curtin’s institutional repository), your purpose has changed to publication and you must seek permission from the copyright owner to include copyright material in your thesis.
  • Sample permission letters are included below. It is recommended you obtain these permissions in writing and attach them as an appendix in your thesis.
  • For thesis by publication, make sure you read any publishing agreements you sign to confirm whether you can re-use your material in your thesis. Depending on these terms, you may need to remove the content, replace the content with an accepted version of your paper, embargo the content and/or seek approval for a permanent exemption from including your thesis in espace.



Copying material while researching

Students undertaking research can generally rely on the ‘fair dealing’ provisions of the Australian Copyright Act to make a single copy of material for their own personal research or study. Your copying must not exceed a ‘reasonable amount’ of the material, for example no more than ten per cent of the words or one chapter for a book, or one article per journal issue.

Aside from ‘fair dealing’, you may copy material with permission of the copyright owner, or for material that is out of copyright (public domain). The duration of copyright is generally the life of the author plus seventy years.

Many websites permit you to copy small amounts of material for personal, educational use. Check the terms and conditions to see what uses are permitted.

Where material is covered by a contract or licence agreement, you need to check terms of use to see what uses are permitted. For example the Library databases, software and mobile applications are often covered by licence agreements.

Including copyright material in a thesis

When you initially submit your thesis for examination, you have wider provisions for how you can use copyright material compared with when you deposit your thesis into espace.

If the purpose is assessment or examination, you may rely on the University’s Statutory Licence to copy and communicate print and graphic material as long as access is restricted to Curtin staff and students.

When you submit the thesis to espace, your purpose changes to publication as the content will now be publicly available through an online repository (not restricted to Curtin staff and students). This means you cannot rely on the Statutory Licence and you will need to obtain permission for use of copyright material in your thesis.

It is generally okay to use the following without seeking further permission:

  • Brief quotations from another publication may be included as long as the source is properly acknowledged and referenced.
  • Short extracts of text or images from other works where these are the subject of critical commentary or analysis in your thesis. This use is permitted under the ‘fair dealing’ provisions for criticism or review in the Copyright Act.
  • Curtin material where the University owns the copyright and it is not confidential or sensitive information.
  • Out of copyright material in the public domain. Copyright protection generally covers the life of the author plus seventy years but duration can vary depending on the type of material and the date of publication.
  • Material with an open licence, for example content licensed under Creative Commons, may be reproduced without further permission. Abide by any terms attached to the licence, for example attribution of the source (BY) and no adaptations and modifications to the original work (ND No Derivatives).

The following material requires further permission:

  • Letters and other material not made available to the public may not be reproduced or communicated without permission of the copyright owner. This may include private letters, manuscripts, company reports and questionnaires.
  • Commercial products such as online databases, journals or books are protected by contract or licence agreements. It is unlikely that the terms and conditions of the agreement will permit you to copy and communicate the material through espace without seeking further permission. Publishers may impose a charge for use of the material.

For information on re-use of material from your own published work, refer to the section below on theses by publication.

For website content, check terms and conditions to determine whether you can reproduce the material in a public website. Many websites allow copying limited amounts of material for non-commercial or educational purposes. Keep in mind that just because content is free to read or view on the internet, it does not mean it is free to copy without permission. If terms and conditions are unclear about whether you can use the material, you will need to obtain written permission from the copyright owner.

Seeking permission to reproduce material in a thesis

Please refer to the sample letter here and the information below:

  • When seeking permission, it is important to specify details of the material you want to use and the purpose, for example non-commercial use and inclusion in an institutional repository (espace).
  • Ensure permission from the copyright owner is in writing (email is acceptable).
  • Retain a copy of the correspondence received. When you submit your digital thesis you will be required to insert these permissions as an appendix.
  • Comply with any conditions imposed by the copyright owner in the permission.
  • Always acknowledge the source of the material.

Increasingly commercial publishers direct you to request permission via third-party online web forms such as the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. These forms generally display on the journal article or book chapter home page. You will need to specify the citation information and the type of use. Make sure you specify type of use as ‘institutional repository’ for inclusion in espace.

Acknowledging your sources

Regardless of the type of copyright material you are using, you must always provide a full citation for any copyright material you include in your thesis. Refer to the Library’s Referencing LibGuide for more information. Acknowledging your sources is standard academic practice and also a requirement under the ‘moral rights’ provisions of the Copyright Act (the right to attribute).

Submission of your thesis for examination and deposit into espace

It is essential to consider what third-party copyright material you plan to include in your thesis when you commence your research, and allow plenty of time to seek permission from copyright owners.

There are two forms that require thesis authors to officially sign off on statements relating to copyright. At the point you submit your thesis for examination, you will be required to complete the Copyright and Release of Thesis form. Students must declare that the thesis does not contain material which infringes copyright and if necessary permissions have been obtained to use any third-party copyright material.

When your thesis has been passed and you submit it to the Library for inclusion in espace, you will be required to complete the Submission of Digital Thesis form. This form requires that you declare whether the thesis contains third-party copyright material and if all necessary permissions have been obtained. If you have not cleared permissions, you may request that all or part of your thesis is embargoed or exempt from inclusion in espace. When making this decision, please consider that espace is a useful mechanism to promote your thesis and enhance your research impact.

Copyright implications for thesis by publication

If your thesis will include a substantial copy of a journal article, conference paper or book chapter you have written or co-authored, you will need to make sure you are entitled to re-use this material and communicate it online through espace.

Read the terms and conditions of the contract or publishing agreement you sign with the publisher to check what rights you assigned to the publisher and what rights you retained as the author. Often the publisher will request that you assign or transfer your copyright to them as a condition of acceptance of your paper. This means the publisher is now the copyright owner and you’ll need permission from the publisher to re-use your own material. While Sherpa Romeo is a useful resource for publisher policies regarding copyright and what is permitted for deposit in an institutional repository, please refer to your publishing agreement to determine your permitted reuse options.

If you have permission to reproduce the material, ensure you acknowledge and reference the published version to make it clear to the reader that the thesis section is from another source. You are at risk of self-plagiarism if you neglect to do this. If you have modified or adapted the published version, you may still need permission to reproduce the content and you will need to make clear in the acknowledgment that the thesis section is derived from an earlier version.

If the publisher policy permits, you can replace the accepted versions of the paper with your published version after any embargo periods specified by the publisher have lapsed.

For students who have published through Elsevier, please note as of June 2017 the Elsevier publisher policy has been amended to allow HDR students to include the published  version of papers contained in theses and dissertations deposited in institutional repositories. Please refer to Elsevier Article Sharing for further information. For more information on versions of papers refer to the Open Access and espace LibGuide.

If you are unable to obtain permission to reproduce the material you have the following options:

      • You can remove the copyright material from the thesis and direct readers to the publisher version by including the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) link to the paper.
      • You can seek approval for a permanent exemption from depositing your thesis into espace.

Need help?

Contact the Copyright Team or Library Research Services.