Copyright and your thesis

You generally need permission to reproduce third-party materials in the public version of your thesis. This permission is in addition to the normal academic practice of citing sources. While fair dealing allows for the use of third-party materials in the version of your thesis submitted for your degree, fair dealing does not cover the use of third-party materials in the UNSWorks version of your thesis.

Which materials require permission for use?

Written permission must be obtained for all substantial third-party copyright materials included in the public version of your thesis. Fair dealing does not cover the use of third-party materials in the public version of your thesis because it will be publicly communicated via UNSWorks, UNSW’s open access repository.

Third-party material is anything for which someone else owns the copyright. Common examples are long quotations, questionnaires, computer code, musical notation and artistic works such as diagrams, charts, tables and images.

When can I use material without seeking permission?

  • When the copyright has expired - generally 70 years after the death of the creator (for more information see How long does copyright last?)
  • When a fair dealing exception covers your use (for more information about exceptions for criticism, review, parody and satire see Fair dealing)
  • When less than a substantial portion has been used

How much is a substantial portion?


Although this has not been spelt out in the Copyright Act, an insubstantial portion can be included without seeking copyright permission. For publications such as books and journal articles, best practice is limiting a continuous segment to 400 words, and no more than 600 words in total. For shorter works, such as poems, it is best to seek permission as even a small portion may be considered as substantial. For more information see Australian Copyright Council information sheet on Quotes and Extracts.

Artistic Works

This includes art works such as paintings, photographs, 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.

Audio visual works

Judgements about such works are difficult. It is always best practice to seek permission before using.

Requesting permission

It is your responsibility to request permission for third-party materials that you wish to appear in the public version of your thesis. You should allow a significant amount of time for the request process, as it often takes multiple months to confirm permissions.

Your requests to copyright owners for permission should explain that the work will be included in a digital thesis that will be made publicly available online. Contact details are often included on publishers' web sites, and forms for copyright permission requests are occasionally available as well.

If no form is provided, this UNSW template can be used to request permission.

You should retain copies of permissions for your own records. Copies of permissions do not need to be submitted to UNSW.

If permission has not been obtained at the time your thesis is submitted, please remove the materials for which permission was not received from the public version of your thesis. In the place of the redacted materials, you may include a short statement, such as: 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 to access 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 publication in the public version of your thesis in UNSWorks. Often in your agreement with the 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
    • If the publisher does not have a form, this UNSW template can be used to request permission
  • Tell them the amount of the work you wish to use
  • State clearly that you are seeking permission to use the work for non-commercial purposes
  • 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

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