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Copyright and your E-thesis


From August 2011, an electronic copy of the final version of all research degree theses (PhDs, MDs, Mchs, MPhils, MScDs by research and doctoral degrees by examination and thesis) is required to be deposited in the University's institutional repository, ORCA - Online Research @ Cardiff.

Information about how to deposit a thesis is available here.

Copyright law in the UK protects the rights of authors of original works and so authors or publishers can take legal action against those who re-use their work without permission.

Copyright in theses is normally held by the author, unless rights have been transferred to others. However, if you include material from other authors (third parties) you may need to permission to include this in the electronic version of the thesis. 


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Third party copyright and use in your thesis: illustration for instruction

In certain circumstances, such as written or verbal examinations, extracts of copyright material may be reproduced without prior permissions. As a thesis falls into this category it is reasonable to assume that the candidate may include extracts of copyrighted material with full acknowledgements. The candidate will need to consider whether their copying is reasonable and fair before including it in their thesis. Candidates should therefore ensure their copying is limited to what is necessary for the purpose of the examination and at the same time should consider whether or not their copying would have a negative impact on the market for the original work. 

For further details, please see the Examination Papers and Copyright guide.

However, after the examination process has been completed and the thesis is subsequently to be made available to other users (by being placed in the library or published in print or on the web), these exceptions no longer apply and you would need some form of permission to continue to include this material. Short quotations, accompanied with full acknowledgement, which are necessary and relevant to your thesis, may be permitted provided they are reasonable and fair and would not have a negative impact on the market for the original work. For more extensive sections of text or other types of material permission must be obtained.

In some circumstances, inclusion of third party copyright material may be permissible through other permitted acts available under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 (as amended), for example, copying for the purpose of criticism and review. For more information on these permitted acts, please see the Copyright – ‘Fair Dealing’ Guidelines guide.

If you are unsure whether the copying you have done is covered by these permitted acts, it is advisable to seek advice/permission. 


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Seeking permission for inclusion of third party copyright material

When seeking permission you should first establish who controls the rights to grant permission. With a published book, this can be the author(s), publisher, artist(s) or any combination of these. We strongly encourage you to consider doing this whilst you write your thesis, requesting permission to continue to include these works post examination, for publication online worldwide (see example text below).

If permission is given state this at the appropriate point in the thesis: 'Permission to reproduce this ... has been granted by...'. Keep a copy of all correspondence so that it can be easily retrieved if ever required.

If permission is not given you will need to decide if you want to make an edited version publically available that excludes the third party material. In these cases the material will need to be removed and replaced with a statement that confirms this, e.g. "this image has been removed by the author for copyright reasons".

In exceptional circumstances, where copyright law requires the redaction of significant parts of a thesis, the thesis may be held by the University and the National Library of Wales in print form and not stored in the repository. Any special requirements will need to be discussed with the Repository Team.


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Template to request permission

I am a student at Cardiff University and I am writing to you to seek permission to reproduce the following extract (details below) for inclusion within my PhD thesis entitled [provide the title of your thesis here] which, once completed, will be accessible worldwide through Cardiff University’s online repository, ORCA (see

Extract details:

Title (publication):
Published Date:

I would be most grateful if you could please confirm whether you own controlling rights to the above material and whether you would able to grant me permission to copy and include this extract within my PhD.

Please contact me if you need any further information.


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Copyright and intellectual property for students

You own the copyright to your thesis and the rights to publish and distribute it, unless you have made arrangements to transfer copyright to a third party (e.g. a sponsor). By depositing the thesis in ORCA, you are not transferring copyright: you are allowing Cardiff University to store a copy of your work, but you remain free to publish the thesis elsewhere.

For more information on Cardiff University’s Intellectual Property (IP) see the Technology Transfer web pages.

When the thesis is deposited in ORCA, access will be widely and freely available worldwide via the internet to promote your research to the widest possible audience. If you wish to restrict access to the thesis for a short period of time in order to prepare for publication, please contact the University Registry.


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Help and advice

Further advice on copyright can be obtained by contacting the Information Services Legal Compliance Team and from their web pages

The University Graduate College offer online skills training on intellectual property and getting published.

The Subject Librarian for your academic school can also provide help and advice.


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