Answered By: Monique Ritchie
Last Updated: 12 Nov, 2014     Views: 855

By default, copyright in your thesis belongs to you, the author, under Section 11 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) 1988.

Publishing your thesis will likely involve making significant editing and post peer-review amendments to meet publication standards. It’s possible that the final published work will bear little resemblance to your original thesis, and if so, copyright is likely to subsist independently in both works. Unless you assign copyright in the thesis to a third party, copyright in this work will normally remain yours. However, copyright in any third party material you have reproduced is not transferred to you. You therefore need to obtain copyright clearance to publish substantial amounts of third party content, although it may not be necessary for use that falls under an applicable statutory exception, such as fair dealing for criticism and review (Section 30 CDPA 1988). 'Substantial' use can be defined in terms of the quality of content copied, not just quantity, as established in Newspaper Licensing Agency Ltd v Marks & Spencer plc [2001] UKHL 38, [2003] 1 AC 551, [2001] 3 All ER 977.

As part of your agreement with the University, you will have to submit an electronic copy of your thesis to the Library for archival in the institutional repository, BURA. If you intend to formally publish your thesis in whole or in part, you should be aware that some publishers may not be entirely happy about prior public availability of your thesis, and could turn down material for publication on this basis. A publisher might object if they feel that the published work substantially reproduces content in the thesis and that its availability to the public will harm sales of the published work. It’s usual for copyright in work accepted for publication to be assigned to the publisher, who could challenge a prior version of it or material containing substantial portions of it, on the basis that it may be an infringing copy. 

To avoid disputes or even potential legal action later on, you should always disclose to prospective publishers before you sign any agreements, that your thesis is (or will be at the end of any embargo) permanently available on the internet in an open access institutional repository. 

If you know that you intend to commercially exploit your thesis when you submit it for examination and believe this is likely to prejudice the chance of it being accepted for publication, you may wish to apply for an embargo to delay its public release. An embargo request must be approved by your supervisor and granted by the Deputy Head of Registry.

Further information on applying for an embargo is available from our "submitting your thesis" webpage.