Copyright for research and study purposes

This section deals with copyright as it relates to theses and dissertations and also provides some answers to questions you may have as a researcher.

Who owns copyright?

You own copyright in the material you produce which is your own original work. If your research is funded by an external agent you may not own copyright in materials produced as a result of that research: the terms of the research contract will set out who owns copyright in the work produced. You also may not own copyright in your own work if you have assigned copyright to another person, for example, copyright in a journal article to a publisher. See Copyright for staff and students.

How do I obtain copyright to protect my work?

Copyright arises automatically in New Zealand when a work is recorded or written down. Once a work has been created it is protected, providing it has the requisite level of originality. You do not need a copyright symbol, or to register the work, for it to be protected. Your right to the work you have created is also protected under the University of Auckland Intellectual Property Created by Staff and Students Policy.

If you want to formally protect it, the best way is to make sure you have evidence that you created the work before the person who you believe has copied your work. The person who can demonstrate to the court that they were the first to record the work will be successful. Although in New Zealand you cannot register a copyright work, you can protect it by using the © symbol beside your name along with the date.

The other way to protect a work, particularly if it is a play and it is being performed, is to make a recording of the performance and keep copies of flyers etc showing the dates on which the work was performed. Another suggested way is to post a copy of the manuscript to yourself with a date stamp on the envelope. This envelope should remain sealed until such time as you need to rely on it for evidence.   

How do I avoid infringing other people’s work?

While you are permitted under the Copyright Act to copy another person’s copyright work (third party copyright) and include that in the work you produce there are conditions that must be fulfilled:

  1. You must fully attribute the other person’s work in accordance with the requirements of your discipline.
  2. The permission does not apply if you publish or communicate your work outside the University for purposes other than assessment or examination of the work.

Make sure you have permission to use other people’s work

Depositing a digital copy of your thesis or dissertation in the University’s research repository ResearchSpace, makes it a publication because it is posted online and is potentially made available to the whole world. Prior written permission to allow your work to be made publicly available must be obtained from the copyright owners where:

  1. A whole work is copied – a photograph, short story, poem, diagram, chart, graphic or image is considered to be a whole work and is not just a part of the publication in which it appears
  2. A substantial part of a work is copied – a copy of a part of a work is considered substantial if it represents the essence or an important or significant part of that work, however a short quote for academic purposes is unlikely to be considered substantial
  3. You have collaborated with another person to create a copyright work which is jointly owned
  4. Where you have permission to use a work for one purpose for example, a performance and you now wish to include a recording of that work in your thesis, i.e. the permission does not cover the use of the work for another purpose.

You will require permission to copy works, including works posted on the internet, unless the author has clearly stated that the work may be copied and posted on the internet or otherwise published.

Take care with material provided to you by your lecturers

Many of the materials you are provided with as part of your studies, such as a chapter from a book or a journal article, are copied under special copyright licences paid for by the University. You can print a copy for yourself if the material is in electronic form, but you cannot make extra copies or share with others unless one of the exceptions applies (see Using and copying work for circumstances when copying is permitted without permission). This means you cannot post these materials on social media sites such as Facebook even if it is for study purposes.

Lecturers own copyright in their lectures. You must not record those lectures without permission and you must not share those recordings without permission or post them on the internet.

How do I obtain permission to use a work?

Obtaining permission to use a copyright work requires that you enter into an agreement with the rights owner(s) of that work. This agreement must give you the right, or licence, to use the work.Getting permission requires you to undertake the following steps before your thesis or dissertation can be placed in ResearchSpace, the University's research repository:

  1. Determine that the work is protected by copyright.
  2. Identify the rights owner(s).
  3. Contact the owner(s) and negotiate whether payment is needed.
  4. Get each permission in writing.

If you are unsure whether you need to obtain written permission you will need to check with your supervisor or Head of Department who may be able to assist you. A draft letter which can be used for approaching copyright holders for permission is provided below.

If you have been unable to obtain permission to reproduce material, you may consider placing that material in a separate section of your thesis which can then be suppressed from public view or the whole text of the thesis can be suppressed. Email for more information on these options.


Dear [insert name of owner or authorising person]

I am a research student in the Department of [name] at The University of Auckland. I am writing up my research in a [thesis/dissertation] entitled [title of thesis/dissertation].

I am seeking permission to utilise the following copyright material in my [thesis/dissertation] for the purposes of examination and subsequent deposit in The University of Auckland publicly available digital repository, ResearchSpace:       

[Insert description and source of material for which permission is sought].

If you are happy to grant permission, please sign the authority at the bottom of this letter and return a copy to me. You can also add specific instructions regarding the attribution statement that I will include in my [thesis/dissertation], and any additional terms and conditions that you require.

If you wish to discuss the matter further, please contact me at [insert email address] or telephone [insert number].

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Yours sincerely



I, as Copyright Owner (or the person with authority to sign on behalf of the Copyright Owner) of the material described above, grant permission for [name of student] to copy the material as requested for the stated purposes, with no further action required.

Signed: ………………………………………..  Date:  ………..…………..

Attribution statement

Please note any specific instructions you would like included in my acknowledgement of Copyright Ownership:

Terms and conditions

Please note any terms and conditions of the permission:


A less formal approach may be made by email, but ensure that you include the information set out in the letter.

Make sure you are communicating with the person who controls or owns the copyright. This may be the publisher and not the author.  You may need the permission of both the publisher and the author.


If you urgently need to obtain permission you can fast track the process by obtaining permission by phone. Make sure you write down:

  • the time and date of the call
  • the name of the person giving permission
  • the extent of the permission being given

You should follow this up with a formal request in writing to have written confirmation of the permission which has been given.

Can’t get permission

If you have been unable to obtain permission to reproduce material or your thesis or dissertation contains confidential information that should not be made available to the public then consult the ResearchSpace administrator for information on the options available to you.

How do I retain the right to use my work again if it’s published?

Although you own copyright in your own work in the first instance you may transfer ownership of copyright to another person by assigning it. The assignment must be in writing and signed by you. Traditionally copyright is assigned to the publisher in exchange for publishing a work. Once you have assigned copyright to the publisher you give up all of your rights to that work. This means that without the permission of the publisher you cannot print the work and distribute it to your colleagues; or post the work on your personal website or in the University’s research repository.

If you are publishing your work and would like to include that work in your thesis then you will need to either ensure that you retain copyright in your work or the right to deposit your work in ResearchSpace, the University's research repository. You can do this by either giving the publisher a non-exclusive licence to publish your work; or including in the contract with the publisher the right to include the work in your thesis and deposit that thesis in ResearchSpace. If you are planning to publish your work then the Copyright Toolkit for Academic Authors (provided as an Appendix to Understanding Open Access in an Academic Environment published by Queensland University of Technology) provides a useful resource and will help you to determine the best way to retain the rights to use your own work as necessary.

Which rights to retain?

Before signing, strikeout and modify language of the publishing contract by changing the contract. Initial the changes and submit a signed copy to the publisher. In many cases, publishers will accept changed contracts.

Rights you might negotiate for when publishing a book include: distributing it to your students; uploading the published final version to your personal website or an institutional repository; republishing the work in a later work of your own; ensuring rights revert to you if the article is not published or removed from the publication and granting permission to others to use your work.

Rights you might negotiate for when publishing a book include: ensuring that rights revert to you if the book goes out of print; eliminating clauses limiting subject areas or publishers for your future works (noncompetes); requiring that the copyright be registered in your name and not the publisher's; and limiting the copyright transfer to specific geographical territories and/or languages.

Save your publication agreement so if questions arise in the future, you will have written documentation of your agreement with the publisher.

Types of Publication Contracts

Traditional – Author Transfers Full Copyright

This is the least author-friendly model since you transfer your full copyright to the publisher and retain no rights to your work. If you see this language in your publication agreement, you may request changes to the copyright transfer section and see how the publisher responds. Many prestigious publishers still use this model, and if you want to publish with certain publishers, you may have to transfer most or all rights to your work. You will always have the option of requesting permission from your publisher for a specific use.

Sample language – complete copyright transfer

The author hereby transfers, assigns, or otherwise conveys all copyright ownership, including any and all rights incidental thereto, exclusively to the Publisher.

Shared Rights - Author Transfers Copyright but Retains Certain Rights

This model is more author-friendly than the traditional model since you retain rights to use your work in specific situations. Some publishers allow authors to retain certain rights in their standard contracts. If this is the case, you will want to read the provision carefully to determine exactly what rights you are retaining (e.g. can you upload the published final version of your article to your personal website?). If the rights retained are too restrictive, you might be able negotiate directly with a publisher to amend the agreement. SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, has created a model addendum that modifies the publisher’s agreement to allow you to retain important rights to your article.

Sample provision that may be offered by a publisher

The Author hereby grants and assigns all copyright ownership to the Publisher, under the terms set forth below.

  1. to make and distribute copies in the course of teaching and research;
  2. to quote from the Article in any book or article that he or she may later write;
  3. to photocopy the Article for his or her own use, including use in his or her own classes;
  4. to post the Author’s own versions (but not the Publisher’s versions) on the Author’s personal website, in the Author’s institutional repository, and in other noncommercial open access repositories, with copyright and source information provided along with a link to the published version as soon as it is available; and
  5. to republish the Article in any book he or she may write or edit after the journal has appeared

Excerpt from the SPARC Author Addendum

AUTHOR and PUBLISHER agree that in addition to any rights under copyright retained by Author in the Publication Agreement, Author retains:

  1. the rights to reproduce, to distribute, to publicly perform, and to publicly display the Article in any medium for noncommercial purposes;
  2. the right to prepare derivative works from the Article; and
  3. the right to authorize others to make any non-commercial use of the Article so long as Author receives credit as author and the journal in which the Article has been published is cited as the source of first publication of the Article.

With the SPARC Addendum, you have broader rights to use your work than under the sample publisher’s provision. For example, the SPARC Addendum allows you upload your published article in its final form to your personal website or to an institutional repository; the publisher’s provision allows only the author’s version, not the published final.

Shared Rights - Author Retains Copyright and Grants a License to the Publisher

Another way to share rights is for you, the author, to retain the copyright in your work and grant to the publisher a non-exclusive license to publish the article. These agreements are not as common as the first two types, but are a more author-friendly option if available.

Sample language – granting the publisher the right of first publication and non-exclusive rights

The copyright in the Article shall remain with the Author, and nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as an assignment of copyright to the Publisher or the Journal.

  1. The Author grants to the Journal, a worldwide, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to publish, reproduce, and distribute the Article in the Journal and in any and all other formats and media, now or hereafter known. This license includes:
  2. the right of first publication of the Article;
  3. the right to authorize third-party publishers, aggregators, and printers to publish the Article or to include the Article in databases or other services, now or hereafter known; and
  4. the right to transfer, assign, or sublicense the rights that the Journal has pursuant to this Agreement.

If you are planning to publish your work then the Copyright Toolkit for Academic Authors (provided as an Appendix to Understanding Open Access in an Academic Environment published by Queensland University of Technology) provides a useful resource and will help you to determine the best way to retain the rights to use your own work as necessary.

How to retain rights?

Check the SHERPA/RoMEO website to view the self-archiving and copyright policies of your publisher:

  • Publisher policies and agreements are usually linked from the author information or article submission section of a journal’s website.
  • If the policy for the publisher you want to use isn’t listed in the SHERPA database, or isn’t what you desire, you can retain rights by specifying to the publisher of your article which rights you would like to keep.
  • Modify the publisher’s publication agreement with an addendum such as the SPARC Author Addendum.
  • Use a Creative Commons license in place of the license provided by the publisher.

Which publishers are likely to be flexible about these rights?

Publisher policies and agreements vary considerably.
The SHERPA/RoMEO database offers a summary of publisher copyright policies & self-archiving. While some publishers will not accept an addendum outright, they might respond by sending back a second, more author friendly publishing contract.
Publisher policies change over time, and the terms stated on their web sites often vary from the terms of their actual agreements, so it is important to read the agreement itself.

Examples of Publisher Copyright/Publication Agreements:

Using copyright materials correctly

If you would like more information on copyright in relation to submitting a thesis or dissertation you can link to Guide to Theses and Dissertations here. Alternatively, you can learn more about copyright by completing the University's Academic Integrity course.