In the UK theses are protected by copyright under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988. Depending on the content, a thesis will usually be protected as a literary work at least in part and may also be a dramatic, musical or artistic work or a film, or by a combination of these categories of works.

Exclusive Rights

The Act gives to the owner of the copyright in a thesis the exclusive rights to:
  • Copy the work
  • Issue copies of the work to the public
  • Rent or lend the work to the public
  • Perform, show or play the work in public
  • Communicate the work to the public
  • Make an adaptation of the work
If a third party uses a substantial part of a thesis without the copyright owner’s consent for all or any of these purposes, then copyright in the work is infringed.

Authorship and Ownership

Copyright in a thesis generally belongs to the author. This however will change if the author (researcher) has assigned copyright to a third party in a written agreement. Some examples when ownership may have transferred to a different party include the following:
  • Ownership of the copyright may have been assigned to the awarding institution when the course of research was commenced.
  • If the author was sponsored by a third party, then a condition of that sponsorship may have been that the copyright was assigned to the sponsor.
  • The awarding institution might have employed the author to undertake the work (in this case the copyright belongs automatically to the awarding institution unless a contract freely entered into by both parties specifies otherwise).
It is always best to clarify the issue of ownership of copyright at the commencement of a period of doctoral research as it is the owner of the copyright in a thesis who has to give permission for it to be made available in an institutional repository and via EThOS.

Use of Third Party Works and the Use of your Work by a Third Party

Permission needs to be given if a substantial part of works belonging to third parties are to be used in a new work or if a third party wants to use a substantial part of your work. Substantiality is judged by quality and quantity. No permission is necessary if the substantial part is to be used for the purposes of fair dealing. This includes use for non-commercial research and private study, criticism, review and news reporting. In addition the legislation contains a number of instances when no permission needs to be sought for the use of a work in which the copyright belongs to a third party such as when a work is incidentally included in another.
Thought has to be given to the possible presence of material in the thesis in which the copyright belongs to a third party. An example might be where an author has included photographs taken by a third party to illustrate an argument and included these in the work.

Traditionally in the UK, for the purposes of examination, inclusion of such copyright material owned by a third party has been accepted as the thesis has not been considered as formally published. This, however, changes where the thesis is made available on an open access basis on the Web. This is because the work is much more visible and subject to wide dissemination and the copies are no longer made for the purposes of examination of the thesis.

Where a thesis contains third party material the author should seek permission from the owner of the copyright in that material in order to make it available in an Institutional Repository and in EThOS.

Two suggested model forms are available.
  1. A request to a third party to include their material and make it available on an open access basis
  2. A request to a publisher to include an article or content with the thesis where that article or content has been published and the copyright assigned to the publisher
Where the author has not, or cannot obtain permission from third parties, then he/she must edit the work before submission to the repository and EThOS. This could reduce the value of the deposited material, and thought should be given as to whether the revised thesis should be deposited.

Rights Chain

A simple rights chain is shown in the diagnostic tool, which may help to visualise the various stakeholders and their relationships in the process. At each stage permissions need to be passed downstream along the chain to enable the transference of rights from the author to EThOS.

  1. Works owned by third parties – permission to be obtained by author. Conditions must be the same as the conditions on which the work will be made available to the end user
  2. Author – clarify at the outset who will own the copyright in the Work
  3. Institution – change the regulations to mandate electronic deposit both in the Institutional Repository and EThOS. Include in the regulations a non-exclusive licence from the author to make the work available on the terms and conditions on which the work will be made available to the end user
  4. Author to deposit the work in Institutional Repository and EThOS
  5. Terms and conditions on access to the repository and EThOS to be agreed to by the end user and to mirror the terms and conditions agreed by everyone whose work in included in the thesis including the author.

Existing Agreements

In the case of institutions with existing open access e-thesis repositories, it is likely an existing agreement with thesis authors allows wide distribution of e-theses and associated metadata via their institutional repository and other mechanisms. Within the terms of these pre-existing agreements it should be acceptable for EThOS to harvest metadata and redistribute on a non-commercial basis. However, institutions should update their agreements to explicitly permit inclusion of records within the EThOS service to ensure transparency.

On the other hand, it will be necessary for institutions using EThOS for access to metadata and full text, to gather permissions to do so from the authors. For practical reasons, institutions should collect permissions at the time of submission to the host university.

Terms and Conditions of use

When downloading a thesis from the EThOS database, users are required to accept the Terms and Conditions of use

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