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Copyright: for learning, teaching, and research

This guide introduces key concepts of copyright relevant to those both studying and working at the University of Essex.

This guide has been adapted from Copyright guidance created at the University of Kent. Morrison, Chris and Groth-Seary, Angela (2020) University of Kent Copyright Guidance. University of Kent, Kent, UK. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.92664).

Copyright in research outputs

Doing research means creating new knowledge that builds on existing knowledge. This page helps you to understand how to navigate copyright related rights when undertaking your research. 

Your research outputs, such as papers, datasets, diagrams, and even practice-based research, are likely to be protected automatically by copyright. Depending on the nature of your research, they may also be protected by other types of intellectual property, such as database rights, patents, or design rights. 

The detail of who owns the legal rights associated with work created at the University of Essex is in the University's IP Policy. For more information about intellectual property, head to the University's webpages.

The below video introduces some important copyright considerations of which researchers need to be aware.

Copyright when publishing

Copyright might not be the first thing on your mind when you want to publish something. However, taking time to think about copyright when you publish can save you a lot of trouble down the line. 

Some publishers require you to sign a copyright agreement when your manuscript is accepted, which often leads you to sign over the ownership of the publication to the publisher. Depending on the terms of the agreement, this can mean that you will not be allowed to re-use the content from the publication without permission from the publisher.

In some cases the publisher will allow you to keep the copyright if you ask to amend the copyright agreement.

If you publish open access, the copyright will remain with you. However, there are several licences you can publish under. Most journals have a default licence, and many funders also have a preferred licence (usually CC BY). To get an overview of the licenses in Open Access publishing, see below. If your research is funded and your funder and journal's preferred licences do not match, this can cause problems. Read on to the Rights Retention Strategy tab to find out more.

The rights retention strategy (RRS) is a statement developed by cOAlition S, a consortium of research funders. Authors can add the RRS statement to their papers on submission to inform the journal that they have placed a CC BY licence on either the author accepted manuscript or version of record of their paper. By placing this prior licence on the publication, the author retains copyright to this version of the paper, and therefore can deposit that version in a repository with no embargo period, regardless of the journal policy.

Different funders offer slightly different template wording for the rights retention strategy statement. An example of wording can be seen below: 

“This research was funded in whole or in part by [Funder] [Grant number]. For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) version arising from this submission.”

The RRS can be adopted by any researcher wanting to retain copyright to a version of their paper, but is also a route to complying with cOAlition S funders' open access policies. To find out more about this, head to our open access publishing page.

Open access copyright licences

CC0 (No Right Reserved)

CC0 enables creators and owners of copyright to place their work as completely as possible in the public domain. This means that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright law.

CC BY (Attribution)

This licence lets other distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licences offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licenced materials.

Symbol result for CC BY licence

CC BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike)

This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. All new works based on yours will carry the same licence, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

CC BY-ND (Attribution-NoDerivs)

This licence lets others reuse the work for any purpose, including commercially; however, it cannot be shared with others in adapted form,and credit must be provided to you.

Symbol for CC BY-ND licence

CC BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial)

This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don't have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike)

This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Symbol for CC BY-NC-SA licence

CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs)

This licence is the most restrictive of the six main CC licences. It only allows others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Symbol for CC BY-NC-ND licence

Information from: www.creativecommons.org/licenses and www.creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/cc0

If you would like to download a printable information sheet containing all of the above information on copyright licences, please select the PDF link below.

We have created a game, Copyright Dough, which we are happy to run to help you to learn about copyright licences and exceptions in a light-hearted environment. Head to our gamified research support page to learn more about this.

Third party content in research publications

You're likely to want to include other people's copyright material in your research outputs, for example:

  • Quotations, such as passages of text or music
  • Images, such as photographs, maps, charts, or graphs

If you are quoting reasonable amounts and your quotation is properly cited, you don't need to get permission from the author or copyright owner. These uses are covered by the fair dealing copyright exception for quotation. If you're unsure of whether you use of copyright material is a fair and reasonable quotation, contact us for help.

If your use of other people's work is significant, you may need to contact the copyright holder for permission.

If you're a PGR student and have used other people's work in your thesis, you'll need to be aware of any necessary copyright clearance for these works before uploading your work to the Research Repository. This is known as 'third party copyright clearance'. More information on this is available via the University webpages.

Facts can't be protected by copyright or any other type of intellectual property right. However, databases and datasets may be protected by copyright or database rights. You therefore need to check if there's a licence, and what the conditions of use are. For example, geospatial data will typically come with a licence which may be open source, or may require you to agree to terms and possible pay a licence fee. 

You may be using existing creative works such as photographs or films as part of your research. If you have permission to use them from the copyright holder then all you need to do is abide by the terms of that agreement. You can also rely on copyright exceptions such as "non-commercial research and private study" if your use is fair. Please contact us if you need any help with this.

If you work is going to be published in a book, journal, or similar output, your publishing is likely to ask you to clear copyright in all the content you want to include. Examples of these include significant textual quotations, photographs, illustrations, diagrams, or musical scores.

In some cases, getting permission from copyright owners can be difficult or costly, and you may want to discuss with your publisher whether your use is covered by fair dealing exceptions. It's also possible that you can't identify or get in touch with the copyright owners of the content you want to reproduce. These are known as 'orphan works'. The next tab will explain these situations in more depth. 

If you need support in addressing the copyright issues and liaising with your publisher on this, please contact us.

If your research involves working with archival material created within the last 100 years, it's likely that it will be protected by copyright. Most unpublished archival material from earlier than this is still in copyright in the UK. 

Rights clearance in archival material

If you want to digitise and make these works available, you need to fact time for rights clearance into your research project. How much time and effort you need will depend on the material you're working with. For example, if you're working with archival material that has multiple copyright owners who would likely object to the material being made available, you will need to put significant resource into it.

Orphan works

In some cases, it may not be possible to identify or get in touch with the copyright owner at all. These works are called orphan works, and there are licensing and schemes and exceptions in the UK that could allow you to make them available. However, both the licensing scheme and the exception have their disadvantages: you may need to make a risk-based decision to make some content available even where you haven't cleared the rights.

If you are using text and data mining (TDM) to undertake automated analysis of your datasets, you need to address the copyright issues. 

Text and data mining involved copying and normalising your data. If this is protected by copyright or database rights, you will need to either have a licence from the copyright owner, or determine that the TDM exception applies to your activity. This exception allows you to apply TDM to any copyright works for non-commercial research purposes, as long as you have lawful access. 

Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work by University of Essex Library and Cultural Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.