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Study Skills

Copyright for Researchers: Copyright and theses

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Following a decision made by the Board of Graduate Studies at its meeting on 4 July 2017, from 1 October 2017 all PhD students will be required to deposit both a hard copy and an electronic copy of their thesis to the University Library. More information on the requirements to deposit your thesis can be found here.

All PhD students will need to understand how copyright relates to their thesis. If you are a student at the University of Cambridge who is preparing a thesis for submission, you will need to consider both your own copyright in your work and any third party copyright material you have included in your thesis.

Glasses and highlighter pens resting on a book

Third party copyright and your thesis

Copyright held by someone other than yourself is known as third party copyright. If you are using material created by others in your thesis, you will need to investigate whether you should seek permission to include it. If you do include this material in your thesis, you must ensure you credit the copyright holder and the source. More information on third party copyright can be found on the Office of Scholarly Communication copyright webpages.

We recommend that you obtain permission to include material as you are working on your research rather than leaving clearances to the last minute. It can take time to ensure you have obtained the correct clearance and if you do not obtain permission to include the material, you may wish to investigate alternatives or redact the material in your final submission.

Different copyright rules apply to the hardbound copy of your thesis that is deposited in the library for reference and the electronic version of your thesis that is deposited in the Apollo repository. This is because the hardbound copy of your thesis is considered to be unpublished and the electronic version, if made available online, is published. For further information on what to clear and how to clear it, see the Office of Scholarly Communication's webpages 'Your hardbound thesis and third party copyright' and 'Your e-thesis and third party copyright'.

University of Cambridge researchers own the copyright in their own work unless they are sponsored by an external party who may have rights over the material. If the researcher owns the copyright in their work they are free to make it available as they wish.

Depositing your thesis

Electronic deposit does not mean that the full text of the thesis will automatically be available. Students are given the choice of different access levels and must discuss their choice with their Supervisor, before uploading a signed access confirmation form [PDF] at the time the thesis is uploaded for deposit to Apollo. Access levels include the option to make a thesis available Open Access immediately or to embargo access for an initial 12 months, during which time the metadata and abstract of a thesis (but not the full text) will be findable in the repository. For further information on the different access levels and how they will be managed, see here.

Copyright and theses by other authors

If you are including quotations from theses by other authors, you will need to check the copyright status of the work you are quoting, ensure you cite the work correctly and clear the quotation if necessary. If the thesis you are quoting from is an unpublished work, you are required under copyright law to contact the copyright holder to gain clearance to include the quotation in your thesis.

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