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Copyright and Higher Degree Theses: Using third party material

Copyright compliance is an essential part of research and publication for higher degree by research students

Copyright and other people's material

The 'research and study fair dealing' provisions of the Copyright Act do not apply to the use of someone else's work in your printed or online thesis. 

Unless the material you want to use is openly licensed (e.g. has a Creative Commons licence) or is in the public domain (i.e. the copyright has expired), you will need the copyright owner's permission to use their material in your thesis.

Permission must also be sought for unpublished material such as manuscripts and letters, confidential information and material subject to a contractual arrangement.

As seeking copyright permission can be a lengthy process allow time for this and if necessary follow up your initial request with a reminder.

Duration of copyright

For literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, duration of copyright is currently "life of the author + 70 years". This means that, for most works, copyright expires 70 years after the creator dies.

For other types of works including unpublished works, the duration may vary because of the type of work or due to historical changes in the Copyright Act. The Australian Copyright Council Information Sheet, Duration of Copyright, details how to decide whether copyright has expired and tables the current rules.

Obtaining copyright permission

  • Go to the source of the work to see if there is a licence which specifies conditions of use. Look for "terms of use" or "conditions of use" links on websites.
  • If you can't find a clear copyright owner, contact the publisher for clarification.
  • If permission is required, check if the publisher or owner has provided an online form; otherwise make your request using a permission letter. A template letter is available to download through the link below; note that you can amend the text as required. You can also send the permission request via email.
  • When requesting permission, clearly state how much of the work you wish to include and that the thesis will be used for non-commercial research purposes.
  • If permission is granted subject to a contract or requiring a fee, and you are either unwilling to pay or sign, you can seek further advice from the Library in the first instance (see the 'Contact for support' box for library team contact details).
  • If permission is not granted you will need to remove the work from your thesis.

Using copyright material with permission

If permission has been granted it is important that you adhere to the UWA Research Integrity policy (which operationalises the principles and practices of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research at UWA). Ensure that you:

  • record and store the documentation as proof of copyright compliance
  • adhere to the copyright owner's conditions of use
  • acknowledge the copyright owner and the source of the material through accurate referencing.

Support and resources

Contact for support

Email your questions to our friendly library staff.


HDR Students

UWA Staff

More contact options are available on the Library Contact us page.

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