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Thesis Preparation: Copyright

The library helps students to refine their research topic, source material for a thesis and provides tools to manage your bibliography. Consult the library's thesis writing books as you prepare to work on your thesis.

Copyright in Theses

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal protection which arises automatically when a work is created, to protect the interests of the creator. It prevents others from using the work without permission. Copyright Law protects these rights:

  • Economic - right to receive royalties
  • Moral - to be recognised as the creator

These rights are enshrined by law in the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 and the

Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act 2019

More information on Copyright can be found in the Library's Guide to Copyright.

How is copyright relevant to my Thesis?

If you use materials (such as text, images, sound recordings, letters etc.) created by a third party in your thesis you need to consider whether copyright law allows you to use those materials. Simply referencing the material in your thesis might not be adequate, you may need to get explicit permission to reuse and may need to ensure that a licence covers your use of the material. In some cases, even reusing your own published articles can raise copyright concerns, if you have transferred your copyright to someone else, like your publisher.
 You can proceed without copyright permission if you are using something that is in the public domain, and not copyrightable.

The boxes on this page detail the different scenarios you might encounter. 

Using copyrighted materials in your thesis

If the third party copyright material within your thesis consists of a short quotation from a published work and you have acknowledged and referenced it adequately it will probably not be necessary to seek permission from the copyright holder. However if you intend to use any third party images/music/videos then you will need to get permission to include this material within your thesis. Ideally you should seek permission to include third party copyright material in your thesis as you go along rather than at the point of writing up your thesis

Fair Dealing

The principle of Fair Dealing allows you to re use small amounts of third party material without permission from the copyright holder for ‘the purposes of research or private study’. However this only applies to the print copy of the theses. The Electronic version deposited with ULIR should have all copyright material redacted unless permission has been received from the copyright holder.

Copyright where you are the author of a previous work.

If you intend to include published material that you have authored yourself, e.g. journal articles, you still need to check if the publisher will permit you to include these as part of your thesis. The easiest way to do this is by contacting the publisher directly. Most publishers will permit this. A template for permission request letter‌ request letter is available here.

Differences between Plagiarism and Copyright

Copyright infringement is using someone else’s work without obtaining their permission.  

Plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas without giving proper credit.  In other words, because you are not giving attribution to the owner of the original work or idea -- you are presenting the idea or thought as your own.

Plagiarism is considered a major disciplinary offence. Read more about plagiarism in Chapter 6 and Appendix 3 of the UL Student Handbook. You can avoid accidental plagiarism by ensuring you cite work correctly. More information on referencing and citing is available in the Library's Cite It Right: Guide to Harvard Referencing Style: Introduction to Referencing

Copyright permissions

Seeking Copyright Permissions

To seek permission to include third party material you need to contact the rights holder. This may be the author of a work, a publisher, an illustrator etc. In the case of material from books and journals you should contact the publisher in the first instance. Many publishers give details on their web site of how to seek permission and who to contact. Look for information on rights/permissions/copyright clearance. If the publisher does not hold the rights to the work they should forward your enquiry to whoever does. 

A Copyright request template can be found here

If permission is outstanding or is not granted.

Where you have not, or cannot obtain permission from third parties, then the work must be edited before submission to ULIR.  You have 2 options

  1. Edit the item yourself.
    1. Remove the relevant material and insert a place holder at this point in the document, e.g. Figure (Text/Chart/Diagram/image etc.) has been removed due to Copyright restrictions. There is a feature in Acrobat to add a placeholder to a .pdf file. See Tools, Protection Mark for redaction/Apply redaction.
    2. Inform us of any changes you have made to comply with copyright regulations. So we can note the differences between the online version and the printed version.
  2. Ask us to redact the document.
    1. When submitting your thesis, contact the repository at and list all the pieces/pages that you would like us to redact for you.