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Copyright and research students

What is copyright?

A legal regime which protects the form in which ideas are expressed but not the ideas contained in the work.

Unlike other kinds of intellectual property, copyright protection arises automatically when a work is created. You do not have to apply for it or register it in the same way as you do for other types of intellectual property such as a patent. Generally speaking copyright lasts for your life time plus 70 years (see duration of copyright)

What is protected by copyright?

  • literary and other works of text - for example, you retain the copyright of your thesis - the thesis and the data in which it is based will often be the only intellectual property resulting from your research project
  • dramatic and musical works (eg plays and written music)
  • images (eg photographs, technical drawings, diagrams graphs, maps, advertisements, artistic works)
  • audio and audiovisual items (eg CDs, tapes, films, TV and sound broadcasts)
  • published editions of works (eg while authors have copyright in text of their books publishers have copyright in the typographical layout of books)
  • computer programs, software code

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As the owner of copyright (eg in your thesis) what may you do?

The Monash University Statutes relating to Intellectual Property establish that students, in most cases, retain copyright in their research and thesis, unless otherwise agreed.

All doctoral students are required to submit, to the Library, an electronic copy of their thesis, for archiving and preservation purposes. The basic bibliographical details (author, thesis title and abstract) are also made available online through the Monash University Research Repository which is administered through the Library.

Once the examination process is completed, doctoral students are also encouraged to publish their thesis in full through the Monash University Research Repository, thereby making their thesis available to the world-wide research and scholarly community.

Students choosing to publish in the Monash Research Repository grant Monash University a non-exclusive licence to publish their thesis online in the repository. Monash secures this licence agreement through the Thesis Contributor Agreement form, which is completed and provided to Monash Research Graduate School.

The licence granted to Monash is not an assignment of copyright: it is similar to a grant of permission provided by you, as copyright holder in the thesis. Other researchers, including supervisors, wishing to publish a paper using data or content from your thesis will, likewise, need to seek your permission, or obtain a licence from you.  

Regardless of whether the thesis is published in the Monash University Research Repository or not, the University retains the right, as provided by section 51 of the Copyright Act, to supply the thesis, in whole or in part, to researchers requesting the thesis for their own personal research or study. The only exception to this is when the thesis is under an embargo.

At the time of submission, students may place their thesis under an embargo of three years duration (or longer, if agreed by the Monash Research Graduate School) which prevents any access, supply or publication of the thesis content for the duration of the embargo.

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Publishing research

When submitting papers to professional journals, authors often assign (relinquish) copyright to the journal publisher (see MIGR 'TIPS' sheet on Publication). Students need to be aware of this and to consider whether assigning copyright in their work will have an impact on the thesis, if those papers are to form part of the thesis.

The licence granted to Monash enabling the publication of a thesis online in the Monash University Research Repository is non-exclusive, so students are still free to publish their thesis (in part or in whole) with an external publisher (eg within a conference proceedings or in a journal or as a book). In such cases the University will cease to provide open access to the full-text thesis online when requested by the publisher or author.

For other perspectives on publishing in an institutional repository see Jennifer Howard '‘The road from dissertation to book has a new pothole: the internet’ The Chronicle of Higher Education April 3 2011 and Dr Danny Kingsley 'So you want people to read your thesis?'

Authorship

If you co-write articles on your research with another researcher, you might not be entitled to attribution as the sole author of these publications. In many cases, your supervisor/s may be entitled to co-authorship, depending on the contributions they have made to the generation of the research or the writing of the article (see MIGR 'TIPS' sheet on authorship).

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Using third-party copyright in your thesis

Students may rely on the ‘Fair Dealing’ provision in the Copyright Act (Sections 40 and 103) for the creation and submission of a thesis for examination purposes. The ‘Fair dealing’ allowance in the Copyright Act permits a student or researcher to use (reproduce or adapt) a copyright work without permission, for the purpose of their private research or study (including examination purposes). However, once a thesis (or other research output) is published, the student/researcher can no longer rely on this 'fair dealing' allowance as a blanket protection for any or all third-party content which may be included in the thesis.

Once a work is published, 'fair dealing' operates in a much more limited way. For example, an author may rely on 'fair dealing' for the inclusion of limited amounts of another's work, on the grounds that those particular quotations or small excerpts have been reproduced specifically in order to review and critique them at that particular point in the text ('fair dealing for the purpose of criticism and review'). But an author couldn't safely rely on this 'criticism and review' justification just to cover any or all third-party content that may need to be included in their published paper or book.

Students and researchers need to exercise even greater care when their publications include extracts from unpublished materials, especially if access to, and use of, those materials was granted 'in confidence' and on the basis that they would only be used for private research and study, or for the purposes of examination of the thesis. In such cases, the actual act of publishing such material may not be considered a 'fair dealing'.

Doctoral students seeking to publish their thesis online in the Monash open-access Research Repository, need to obtain copyright permissions for any significant third-party copyright material that they include in the their thesis. As part of the publication process Monash will require some evidence from the student indicating that permission or licenses have been obtained for any third-party content included in the thesis.

Refer to the detailed advice on seeking copyright permissions

For more specific information about applying for permissions refer to and the MIGR 'TIPS' sheet on seeking permission. Remember also that copyright owners may refuse permission or may charge a fee.

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Moral rights of the originators of copyright

Research students must be scrupulous in naming the author and source of any third-party content used in the thesis. Failure to do so will infringe the rights of the copyright owner under the moral rights provisions in the Copyright Act. Regardless of whether they retain copyright or not, an author always retains the right to be correctly attributed as author of their work; the right to prevent others being named as author of that work and the right to take action against derogatory treatment of their work if this is likely to damage their reputation (eg quoted out of context; images distorted or altered). For more information see Respecting moral rights

Further help

The Monash Institute of Graduate Research (MIGR) in conjunction with the Copyright Office has produced a podcast to help HDR students understand copyright issues when preparing a thesis for publication.

MIGR also produces a series of brochures on theses and intellectual property. These Topics on Intellectual Property Series (TIPS) brochures can be obtained from the Monash Research Graduate School.

Topics covered include:

  • Assignment and Licensing
  • Authorship
  • Background Intellectual Property
  • Confidentiality
  • Intellectual Property
  • Seeking permissions
  • Patents
  • Plagiarism and using quotes
  • Publication

See also:

Monash University Statute 11.2 Intellectual Property (PDF) and Regulations.(PDF)

Monash University Research Repository

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Send an email inquiry to the University's Copyright Adviser.