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A copyright guidance resource for staff, students and researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University

Researchers and copyright

These pages aim to help researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University to understand how and why copyright needs to be considered when undertaking a piece of original research and presenting research in a thesis and/or published article. This is because researchers will inevitably use the ideas and work of other people and organizations. As a consequence, researchers also need to know what rights apply to their own work, and how they want others to share and re-use the content that they create. 

This guide will help you to understand: 

  • how researchers can protect their own copyright in the work that they produce
  • how researchers can use the ideas of others without infringing copyright
  • when researchers might need copyright permission and how to get it

Copyright and Ethics

It's essential that researchers think about copyright issues from the outset - before starting to gather any data or conduct fieldwork. Copyright issues also overlap with, and are sometimes mistaken for, wider ethical issues such as how you can use the data that is collected from other sources, and obtaining consent to use their names and ideas. Manchester Metropolitan University has guidance on ethics in research which you should also read. Any questions regarding research ethics should be sent to

When re-using data collected from others, it's important to clarify what you want to do with the information they give you. One example is if you take photos of people who are clearly identifiable, you must obtain their permission if you wish to include these in your thesis, even if you own the copyright in the photos. There may also be confidentiality issues in many disciplines, so data may need to be anonymised. If others supply you with data or information and you wish to republish it in your thesis, you'll need to establish who owns the copyright and obtain their permission. 

Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for Students

The standard position at Manchester Metropolitan University is that a student owns their own IPR unless: 

  • they are a post-graduate student receiving a University studentship - in which case such IPR will be owned by the University subject to any alternative arrangements with the student
  • they are a postgraduate student receiving a bursary from, or has their fees paid or subsidised by, a sponsor - in which case ownership of such IPR will be subject to the arrangement between the Student, University and Sponsor
  • they generate IPR which builds upon existing IPR generated by, or is jointly invented with University Employees or Associates
  • they are also an Employee of the University and developed the IPR in that capacity

Also, the University may be willing to support protection and commercialisation of student owned IPR. 

For full details, check the Manchester Metropolitan University's Intellectual Property Rights Policy document


Where and how will your thesis be made available to to readers? 

Under University regulations, all final theses must be deposited in Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository e-space. E-space is an open access institutional archive through which theses will be made publicly available to download. 

All works deposited in Manchester Metropolitan University's e-space are done so under the RKE's Graduate School EThOS Deposit Agreement, by which you grant e-space a non-exclusive licence to make your thesis available online. Included in the agreement is a statement to the effect that you have exercised reasonable care to ensure that work within your thesis is original, and does not [...] break any UK law or infringe any third party’s copyright or other Intellectual Property Right. 

Once you've completed your viva exam and made any revisions, the Graduate School will send your thesis to the Library's e-space team who will make it available in the repository for you. 


The advantages of making your thesis available in e-space 

There are numerous advantages to putting your PhD thesis into e-space, such as: 

  • Increasing the visibility and reach of your research. Theses deposited in e-space appear prominently in search engine results and are indexed by authoritative sources such as the British Library's EThOS service ( Several studies also suggest that research that's available via open access is more likely to be read and cited. 
  • Providing a stable, long-term URL that you can use to promote your work, refer potential collaborators, employers and grant providers, and enable and track citations and downloads of your PhD. 
  • Ensuring long-term preservation and access to your research. 
  • Satisfying the open access requirements of funding bodies, such as RCUK. 
  • Protecting against plagiarism by making a reference copy publicly available. 
  • Enabling access to usage statistics to show how often the thesis is downloaded. 

Things you need to be aware of when making your thesis available via e-space

Although depositing your thesis in e-space isn't formal publication in the traditional sense, you need to be aware that in depositing your thesis in e-space the full text of your work is discoverable and accessible online. If you're using work from other sources, even your own, then you should acknowledge this via citations to the material. If the content of a chapter is used in a publication in the same form then some publishers may request your thesis is embargoed or removed from the repository until after publication. 

What to do if using your own published work in your thesis

Many research students who have already had work published want to include some of this work in their thesis. Although the material is your own work, as part of the publication process, publishers will often request that you transfer copyright or assign an exclusive right to publish, in the form of a Copyright Transfer Agreement or Contributor's agreement. While most publishers allow you to keep the rights to distribute your own final version of your published work following peer-review, there are often certain conditions on this re-use. If you plan on using your own published work in your thesis, remember to discuss this with your publisher, preferably as soon as your work is accepted for publication. You can also check the publisher's policies on copyright and self-archiving from the Sherpa Romeo website:

If you're pursuing the PhD by Publication route, you won't be able to include the published version of any articles, please consult the Graduate School's Supporting Materials section for Guidelines for PhD by Published Work document. 


Obtaining permissions for use of copyright material

How do you obtain permission for re-use of copyright material? 

Firstly, you will need to identify who owns the work you wish to use e.g. publisher, author or artist. For material on a website there may be a section about copyright or it may be included in the terms & conditions of use.

You may find relevant contact details from PLS Clear ( You must be as specific as possible about the material you'd like to use (include page numbers when possible), and where it will be reproduced. Also please make the rights owner aware that your thesis will be made available in Manchester Metropolitan University's e-space repository. 

How long it takes to obtain copyright permission is variable depending on individual copyright holders - some people may take time to respond or not reply at all. Importantly, a lack of response does not give you permission to use the work! Remember to allow sufficient time (several weeks at the least) to obtain permission - it's better to request permission early on in the process of producing your thesis. Also, some permissions may incur a charge, especially if you want to publish the thesis at a later stage. 

Unable to obtain permission?

If you have taken reasonable steps but have been unable to obtain permission to include material protected by copyright in your thesis or work, you should remove the material. Please indicate where material has been removed using the following message: This [delete where appropriate] image/photo/screenshot/map/graph, [insert title or short description], has been removed as the copyright is owned by another organization or individual. 

Permissions letter for researchers

When contacting rights owners to seek permission to include their material within your thesis it is important that you are clear about what you are asking for. The following is a suggested wording that can be incorporated into letters/e-mails that you send to rights-holders:

I am contacting you to seek permission to include the following material within the electronic version of my PhD/MSc/MPhil (insert relevant level) thesis:

[Provide full details of the material you intend to include]

If you are not the rights holder for this material I would be grateful if you would advise me who to contact.

The thesis will be made available within Manchester Metropolitan University's online theses repository ( The repository is non-commercial and openly available to all.


Many thanks to Jane Secker at LSE for sharing her booklet 'Copyright and your thesis', which has been adapted (above) for Manchester Metropolitan University. Copyright LSE 2016, licensed under creative commons CC-BY-NC-SA-4.0. 

Copyright FAQs: researchers

Further Reading

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