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Copyright and your E-thesis


The purpose of this guide is to help you understand the copyright aspects associated when submitting your thesis to ORCA and to help you understand your rights and the rights of others (third parties) when using other authors works.



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, OnlineResearch@Cardiff (ORCA).

Information about how to deposit is available here

Uploading your thesis to ORCA: important information


UK Copyright Law

In the UK copyright law protects the rights of authors of original works. Authors or, where applicable, the copyright holder of such works can take legal action against those who re-use their work without some form of permission. This applies if you include copyright material from other authors (third parties) in your thesis.


Copyright Ownership

In accordance with Cardiff University’s policy on intellectual property, copyright in your thesis would normally belong to you as the author however, there are circumstances whereby copyright is shared or even assigned/transferred to others.

Further information regarding copyright ownership can be found under Copyright and intellectual property for students.



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Use of third party copyright material in your thesis

Copying third party material for an examination purpose falls within one of the permitted acts allowed for in the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988 (the Act) as amended. Copying done for an examination purpose is permitted provided it is fully referenced. For further details, please see INSRV’s copyright guidance on copying done for an examination purpose

However, after the thesis has been examined and your work is subsequently made available to other users (by being placed in the library or published in print or on the web), you would need some form of permission to continue to include this material.

Where extracts are insubstantial short quotations from a published work it may not be necessary to seek permission from the copyright holder provided these are accurately cited. This is permitted under ‘fair dealing’ exemptions in the Act for non-commercial private research or criticism and review. Unfortunately the Act does not go on to define what is meant by insubstantial. If you are not sure whether your quotation is substantial, it is best to seek guidance or obtain permission from the copyright owner. For more extensive sections of text or other types of material for example, poems, images, photographs and music extracts, permission must be obtained.

Where permission is denied or you are unable to obtain permission from the copyright owner, these extracts should be removed and replaced with a bibliographic reference following the examination. 

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 necessary rights to grant permission. With a published book, this can be the author(s), publisher, artist(s) or any combination of these. We encourage you to do this whilst you write your thesis, whereby you should request permission to continue to include these works post examination, for publication online worldwide.

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". A bibliographic reference may be placed here to refer readers to the original source.

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

In most cases you, as the author, 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, publisher). By depositing the thesis in ORCA, you are not transferring copyright: you are granting Cardiff University a licence to store a copy of your work, but you remain free to publish the thesis elsewhere.

More information from Cardiff University on commercially valuable Intellectual Property (IP) is available.

Having deposited your e-thesis in ORCA, access to it will be 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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