Copyright guidelines for the public version of your digital theses

The UNSW Copyright web site provides general copyright information at

Written permission must be obtained for all substantial third party copyright material included in the public version of your digital theses. This is because the theses are being communicated to the public via the World Wide Web, and for copyright purposes, are deemed to be published.

What is third party copyright material?

This is material for which someone else owns the copyright. Common examples are text, artistic works such as diagrams, charts, tables, images, computer programs and musical notation.

When can third party copyright material be freely used without permission?

  • When the copyright has expired - 70 years after the death of the author or creator
  • When less than a substantial portion has been used

What constitutes a substantial portion?

(a) Text
Although this has not been spelt out in the Copyright Act, best practice would be to limit a continuous segment from a work to 400 words, and no more than 600 words in total from a work. The total should not amount to more than 1% of the whole work. If in doubt, seek permission.

(b) Artistic Works
Examples of artistic works are art works such as paintings and photographs as well as diagrams, charts tables and graphs. Each work is considered a substantial portion and permission must be obtained. When photographs are taken of artistic works permission should be sought from the original artist.

(c) Audio visual works
Judgements about such works are difficult and it is best to seek permission.

Seeking permission

Copyright is very often owned by the publishers of works. Your requests to copyright owners for permission should explain that the work will be included in a digital thesis that will be submitted to UNSWorks and made available worldwide via the web. Contact details and/or email addresses are often included on publishers' web sites.

If permission has not been obtained at the time files are submitted, please remove all affected figures/text/charts/diagrams etc. from the public version of your thesis, and in their place insert a short message - Figure (Text/Chart/Diagram etc.) has been removed due to Copyright restrictions.

If possible, include a reference or a link to the source of the material to enable readers access to the removed content.

Thesis by publication

If you are submitting or have submitted your thesis by publication, you must obtain the publisher's permission to include each paper in the public version of the thesis in UNSWorks. Often in your agreement with a journal or book publisher, you have assigned them all rights to the work, although each publisher's policy differs.

When submitting your request to the publisher:

  • put your request in writing
  • check to see if the publisher has an online permission form on their website
  • tell them the amount of their work you wish to use
  • clearly state that you are seeking permission to use the work for non-commercial purposes - e.g. publication of your thesis on the internet
  • be conscious that the copyright owner has the right to say no
  • be aware that a copyright owner may charge a fee or ask you to sign a licence agreement
  • allow plenty of time, as it may take months for the permission to be granted

If you need more assistance, click here for Advice and further information.