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This page gives information relevant to Curtin staff and HDR students conducting research, as all researchers at Curtin have unique requirements, obligations and rights to meet in relation to the copyright material that they create and reuse as they conduct and disseminate their research.


Copyright and research

As described on the Copyright at Curtin website copyright applies to a range of material types and is a bundle of rights exclusive to creators of copyright material. The following information outlines specific copyright requirements relevant to researchers who are producing and sharing their research outputs.

What are my Curtin policy and procedure requirements?

Ownership of copyright is set out according to Curtin’s Intellectual Property Policy and Procedure. Generally Curtin researchers own the copyright in their scholarly works, i.e. materials created for educational or scholarly purposes excluding course materials. You grant Curtin a non-exclusive licence to use your copyright work(s) for educational and research purposes.

For research outputs (a subset of scholarly works), the Authorship, Peer Review and Publication of Research Outputs Policy and Procedure requires Curtin researchers make journal articles and conference papers openly available after publication, subject to publisher permissions. ‘Openly available’ may mean providing access through Curtin’s institutional repository espace, or via other open access outlets. Curtin encourages open access for other types of research outputs.

Curtin does not currently have any specific requirements relating to open access of learning and teaching outputs.

What are my requirements outside of Curtin?

If your research is funded or sponsored it is likely your funding agreement has specific terms about who owns the intellectual property outputs and how you are expected to share them. For example, both the ARC and NHRMC require that publications resulting from grants are made open access within twelve months of the date of publication, with the publication metadata openly available within three months.

If you publish your research with a commercial publisher or society, it is likely that you will need to sign a publishing agreement that stipulates who owns the copyright. Copyright can be assigned or licensed. When you assign your copyright, this means you give up your copyright and transfer it to someone else. When you licence your copyright, you are permitting someone else to re-use your copyright material in specific circumstances, however you remain the copyright holder. It is common for publishing agreements to assign the copyright to the publisher, and the author retains some rights, for example permission to deposit their accepted manuscript in an institutional repository. Learn more about versions in the Library’s Guide to espace.

As most publishing agreements transfer copyright from the author to the publisher you need to be cautious when sharing your paper online via other repositories as well as scholarly communication networks such as ResearchGate. We have created an information sheet if you want to know more about this topic.

What can I copy while conducting research?

Australian copyright legislation has a fair dealing exception for specific purposes. This means researchers can rely on the fair dealing exception to copy limited amounts of copyright material without infringing copyright.

To rely on fair dealing the use must be for one of the following purposes:

  • Research or study
  • Criticism or review
  • Parody or satire
  • Reporting news
  • Access to copyright material for a person with a disability
  • Giving professional advice by a lawyer.

Staff and students can rely on fair dealing when copying material as part of their research and study activities. For example you might copy content as part of the research process when preparing a paper, or for general reading to maintain current awareness in your field of expertise. You cannot rely on fair dealing for research and study to copy material for another person – instead you need to rely on other provisions in the Act, such as the library exceptions and the Statutory Licence agreements.

Staff and students can rely on fair dealing when copying and communicating material for criticism or review. For example a lecturer might re-use a work for inclusion in a conference paper in order to comment critically on the material, academics might communicate material for the purpose of criticism and discussion, and students might re-use film clips to critique them as part of an assignment.

In order for the dealing to be ‘fair’ it is unlikely you are permitted to copy material in its entirety, therefore copying limits are likely to apply:

  • Journals – one article per issue, or more than one if they relate to the same subject matter
  • Books – 10% of the words or one chapter (whichever is greater)
  • Artistic works (including photographs, figures, and diagrams) – may make a single copy in its entirety, unless multiple copies needed for criticism or review
  • Audio-visual works (e.g. sound recordings, music, video) – ‘fair’ is not defined as a specific amount and any analysis of what is ‘fair’ is quantitative and qualitative
  • Website material and software – check terms and conditions on website or in software user agreement for what is permissible.

What can I copy for publication purposes?

The Using Copyright Resources interactive guide walks you through copying for publication purposes, and provides different guidance depending on the type of third party copyright material you intend on using.

Generally you do not require permission to reuse:

  • Brief quotations from a publication, properly acknowledged and referenced
  • Short extracts of text and occasional use of images where these are the subject of criticism or review (referred to as ‘Fair Dealing’ in the Australian Copyright Act
  • Curtin material where the University owns the copyright and it is not confidential or sensitive information
  • Material where copyright protection has lapsed (usually the life of the author plus seventy years), also known as public domain material
  • Openly licenced material, for example material licensed under Creative Commons.

However it is important to note that publishers sometimes require you clear all permissions for ANY re-use of third party copyright material in your papers. Therefore you may need to clear permission even if you think the use is covered by the fair dealing exceptions.

For researchers outside of Australia you will need to check your local copyright legislation to determine what copyright exceptions might apply. Most jurisdictions have fair dealing exceptions that are the equivalent of those in Australia, but there might be key differences that affect how you apply fair dealing to your own works.

It is important to note that some types of copyright material has multiple layers of copyright protection, and therefore might need permissions from more than one copyright holder. For example, a video may have copyright in the recorded footage, the screenplay, and the associated music. This means you may need permission of the producer, writer, and composer to re-use the video.

What types of re-use will need permission?

Generally you need permission to reuse:

  • Material where the use does not fit the criteria of ‘fair dealing’, for example where you use a quantity more than what is deemed ‘fair’ and/or the use does not fit the purpose of criticism or review
  • Material protected by contractual or licence agreements, such as journal articles accessed via library databases, surveys/questionnaires, or software
  • Online content that is covered by website terms of use – even if the website does not have terms of use, the default under Australian legislation is to consider the material ‘all rights reserved’ which means you need permission of the copyright holder to re-use it
  • Material not publicly available such as letters or unpublished manuscripts;
  • Student works, as students own the copyright in their own material unless there is an agreement in place that specifies otherwise.

How do I seek permission?

For material available on a publisher platform requests are often directed to the third party Copyright Clearance Center RightsLink service. These forms are generally accessed via a permissions link located on the journal article or book chapter webpage. If requesting permission via RightsLink specify the type of use (for example publication, or to post in an institutional repository).

For other types of material, we have template wording you can re-use. We recommend you get the permission for re-use in writing (can be in email form) and retain a copy for your records. It is always a good idea to identify the material you want to re-use and specify the type of use. When you re-use the material make sure you attribute the source of the content and comply with any conditions imposed by the copyright holder in the permission.

In some circumstances it may not be possible to obtain copyright permission, for example the copyright holder may be difficult to identify or you may have issues contacting them. You will need to assess the risk of the re-use before deciding whether or not to re-use the content without permission. Your risk analysis might consider: Are you using a substantial copy? Is the use non-commercial? Does the use fit fair dealing for criticism or review?

Open access

Increasingly research outputs are made available under an open licence to enable sharing and re-use. Many funders have open access mandates that require funded research outputs are made available as open access as soon as is practicable, including access via institutional repositories like Curtin’s espace.

The Library has a range of services to support researchers in Open Research. The Strategic Publishing library guide covers open access publishing including a summary of Curtin’s read and publish agreements which permit Curtin authors to publish open access in particular journal packages with no additional Article Processing Charges.

One of the most common forms of open licences is Creative Commons, a standardised set of six licences. Creative Commons licensing aims to reduce barriers to access, use, and re-use of copyright material. By attaching a CC licence, creators can enable certain types of uses of their works, particularly if they are not seeking commercial remuneration for those works.

There are variations in the licences, and they can have one or more of the following conditions attached:

  1. BY (Attribution) – you must attribute the creator of the work
  2. NC (Non-Commercial) – you cannot use the work for commercial purposes (where the primary purpose is commercial advantage or gain)
  3. ND (No-Derivatives) – you cannot make an adaption or modification of the work and share it
  4. SA (ShareAlike) – if you modify the work, you must licence the new work under the same licence conditions.

All Creative Commons licences require attribution, i.e. that anyone who re-uses your work acknowledges you as the creator.

In addition to CC licences, CC also provides two forms of ‘labelling’ of content as public domain (CC0):

  1. The Public Domain Mark – used by people who have marked works where copyright has expired (usually life of the creator plus seventy years). Note: copyright protection can vary from country to country so sometimes a work that is in the public domain in Australia is not in the public domain in other places.
  2. The Public Domain Dedication Mark – used by creators to mark their own work as public domain, i.e. they ‘give up’ their copyright and the work is okay to re-use without permission or attribution requirements.

For those who are seeking to attach CC licences to their own works, read our information on Considerations for Creative Commons Licensing and our page on Applying CC Licences for further information.

Some researchers think that posting research papers to third party websites such as ResearchGate makes their content open access. Read our information sheet on this topic and why for-profit ‘scholarly communication networks’ are problematic as a source for sharing your papers.

If you are Concerned about whether other people might misuse your content once a CC licence has been applied, Creative Commons has produced a useful webpage and accompanying resources on Licence Enforcement. The CC licences are a legally enforceable set of licences and Creative Commons suggest a good first step is to send a request to the user or website explaining how they have misinterpreted the licence and asking them to fix the problem. If this is not successful you can go to the next step of a takedown notice.

Copyright and creative works

Creative works can be complicated as copyright protection may have multiple layers.

In addition there can be complexity due to the circumstances around the creation of the work, for example:

  • A work might be created while employed by an organisation, and the organisation may have a policy where they assert copyright ownership in the work of employees
  • A work might be commissioned, and the copyright ownership may be owned by the commissioning entity as set out in the formal commissioning agreement
  • A work might be the result of funding or sponsorship, which may have specific terms in how the outputs can be made available.

Obtaining permission to reuse third party copyright material in creative works

Permission requirements for copying and communicating third party copyright material is similar for all content types:

  1. Identify the copyright holder(s)
  2. Contact and obtain permission in writing:
  3. Abide by any terms of the permission from the copyright holder(s) in your use of the copyright material
  4. Retain the copyright permission(s) for your records.

The table below provides some considerations when requesting copyright permission for specific types of works.

Type of workConsiderationsPermissions
Art installationUsually made up of components with a range of copyright protections. This means the installation may be protected by multiple copyright layers and have multiple copyright holders. Refer to permission requirements for each component part (e.g. textual works, visual artwork, etc.).
Design/architectural workGenerally copyright doesn’t protect functional items.

Copyright protects designs, a “work of artistic craftsmanship”, or architectural plans that have not been exploited commercially.

A design object cannot be protected by both copyright legislation and design legislation at the same time. Copyright can provide initial protection. Once the design is registered or “industrially applied” it is protected under the Australian Designs Act 2003, and copyright protection ceases. 
If copyright applies, refer to permission requirements for visual artworks.

Navigating design and copyright legislation can be complex, so we suggest seeking further legal guidance on your situation.
Digital creative workMay be protected as an artistic work.

The source code or object code of computer programs are protected by copyright as a literary work.

Games are not protected as a specific category however the component parts (images, instructions, video, etc.) may be protected by copyright.
Refer to the permission requirements for each component parts (e.g. textual works, visual artwork, sound recording, film/video recording, etc.).

Most software is governed by terms and conditions.
Exhibition program/catalogueProtection for the visual images (artistic works) and text (literary works).

There may be multiple copyright owners depending on the component parts – e.g. the artists, the gallery owner, the designer of the publication, and the published edition.
Refer to permission requirements for visual artwork and textual works.
Film/video recordingProtection for the visual images, the screenplay (literary work), and the soundtrack (music work). Each of these elements may be separately protected by copyright.

This includes feature films, documentaries, short films, home videos, animated films, video clips, and television commercials. 
Generally you will need to get permission for each element of third party copyright material contained in the film to make the recording openly accessible.

Films can be complex and you should review them on a case by case basis.
PerformanceProtected if recorded or captured in a format. If not recorded, copyright does not protect performance.

Choreography can be protected as a ‘dramatic work’ if captured in step-sheets, storyboards, sound recordings, and/or video footage.
Refer to the permission requirements for each component part (e.g. textual works, visual artwork, etc).
Sound recordingProtected as a sound recording. There are additional protections for music, which may be protected as both a musical work (the composition), and a literary work (the lyrics).

For music, other rights that can be referred to include mechanical rights (the right to record the song onto a format), performing rights (the right to perform the music in public or communicate the music to the public), and synchronisation rights (the right to put music together with video).
You will need permission for any third party copyright material included in the sound recording to make the recording openly available.
Textual workProtected as a Literary Work.

If a work contains multiple literary works (e.g. collected in an exhibition catalogue), there might be multiple copyright holders, or copyright may be held by the publisher of the collected work.

Translations may have copyright protection for the creator of the original work, as well as the translator of the work.
Original creative work
You will need permission from the copyright holder of the original textual work unless the material is in the public domain or available under an open licence.

Published content
Published editions can be protected under copyright, so the publisher may have some level of copyright ownership over the material.
If the author has assigned or exclusively licensed the copyright to the publisher, then making the work openly available will require permission of the publisher.
WebsiteA whole website is not protected by copyright, but copyright does protect the component parts of a website, for example text, images, videos, and the website code.  Refer to the permission requirements for each component part (e.g. textual works, visual artwork, sound recording, film/video recording, etc.).
Visual artworkCopyright protects visual artworks as an artistic work.

There may be two layers of copyright if there is a copy of a photograph of a visual work, e.g. a painting. If the photograph was taken at an exhibition, you may need permission of the exhibition space to re-use the image.

If the image was taken by you, or commissioned by you, you may not need permission to re-use. Otherwise, you will need permission of the photographer to share the image.

Any images of people must have consent under the Australian Privacy Principles. Read Curtin’s Privacy statement for more information. 
Original creative work
Permission from the copyright owner(s) of the third party visual artwork is required unless the material is in the public domain or available under an open licence. Where the artwork is made of multiple artworks or content types, each component needs to be reviewed to determine the copyright holder(s).

Digital asset
You may need additional copyright permission for the digital asset (e.g. a photograph of the visual artwork).

Published content
If published content contains multiple creative works (e.g. an exhibition catalogue) there may be multiple copyright holders, or copyright may be held by the publisher. This means making the whole material openly available will require permission from all copyright holders.

Creative works – protecting your copyright

The Arts Law Centre of Australia is a useful resource for protecting your works and navigating the complexities of copyright, including information on how to protect your work on the Internet.

For example:

  • Consider using watermarking or digital fingerprinting to assert your copyright (e.g. applying © Your Name, Date to a photograph)
  • Only share low resolution, or low quality, versions of your works (e.g. images at 72 dpi, music/sound at a compression rate of less than 49 kilobits per second, video with a compression rate of 151 kilobits per second)
  • Attach copyright information to the file metadata
  • Attach copyright information to descriptions of the file, including your contact details so people know who to contact for further permissions.


Copyright for HDR students

Access our Copyright and HDR students training module for a full overview of the copyright considerations while undertaking a Higher Degree by Research.

Your copyright obligations

As per Curtin’s Intellectual Property Policy and Procedures, students own copyright in their thesis.

The following Curtin forms require specific declarations regarding copyright in your thesis and you will submit these as part of the HDR process:

  1. Thesis Submission for Examination – you will be asked to acknowledge you understand and have met copyright obligations prior to submitting your thesis for examination
  2. Deposit of Final Thesis – you will be required to declare you have met your copyright obligations for your thesis which will be made available in espace, Curtin’s institutional repository.

These two forms are to ensure:

  1. Theses submitted for examination and deposited in espace do not contain any copyright infringing material
  2. You have obtained permissions from the copyright holder to re-use the third party copyright material in your thesis
  3. Where you have transferred copyright to another party (e.g. by publishing a journal paper and signing a publishing agreement), you have obtained permission from the copyright holder to re-use the copyright material in your thesis.

To read more on what you can copy while researching, refer to the section What can I copy while conducting research?

When re-using copyright material in the thesis copy, we strongly encourage you to consider what third party copyright material you plan to include as soon as possible so you can organise permissions. Students are required to attach a declaration in the body of their thesis stating all copyright material has been reproduced with permission and attach a copy of all copyright permissions in an appendix to their thesis.

Material that does not require further permission for re-use:

  • Brief quotations from a publication, properly acknowledged and referenced;
    • Short extracts of text and occasional use of images where these are the subject of criticism or review (referred to as ‘Fair Dealing’ in the Australian Copyright Act
    • Curtin material where the University owns the copyright and it is not confidential or sensitive information
    • Material where copyright protection has lapsed (usually the life of the author plus seventy years), also known as public domain material
    • Openly licenced material, for example material licensed under Creative Commons.

Material that generally requires further permission to re-use:

  • Material where the purpose of the use does not fit criticism or review, including text, images, photographs, screen captures of software, etc.
  • Material covered by a licence agreement, including journal articles, surveys/questionnaires, research methodologies/frameworks, software, apps, etc.
  • Company reports, market research, or industry analysis where the material is not openly licensed
  • Primary source material that is not publicly available and where copyright protection still applies, such as letters or unpublished manuscripts
  • Website content where the terms and conditions do not permit the re-use. While many websites permit copying of limited amounts of material for personal, educational purposes, they often prohibit further copying and sharing online to the public
  • Openly licensed material where your proposed re-use does not fit the licence conditions, for example if you want to adapt or modify a work which has a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerviative CC BY-ND licence attached you would need further permission from the copyright holder
  • Published research papers where the author has assigned copyright to the publisher, and the publishing agreement does not permit the proposed re-use.

Seeking permission

For journal publications, many commercial publishers direct requests for permissions via an online form provided by the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. The link to access RightsLink is often found on the journal article or book chapter home page under ‘Rights and Permissions’. If requesting permission via Rightslink ensure the type of use is specified as ‘post in an institutional repository’.

For other types of content, the copyright permission template may be used as a basis for asking permission from a copyright holder.

When seeking permission, specify the thesis will be made available via Curtin’s institutional repository espace. Note that the re-use is for non-commercial and educational purposes, as this may increase the willingness of the copyright holder to provide permission.

When you obtain this permission in writing (including via email), make sure you retain a copy of the permission and comply with any conditions imposed by the copyright holder. To keep track of your use of third party copyright material and the progress of your permissions you can use our Thesis Copyright Log.

Regardless of the type of copyright material, when you reuse material in the thesis you must ensure you acknowledge the source of the material. Refer to the Library’s Referencing Guide for more information.

Including your research papers in your thesis

It is common for commercial publishers to require authors to transfer their copyright in their research papers to the publisher in a publishing agreement. We strongly encourage you read these publishing agreements prior to accepting the terms, and you retain a copy of the agreement so you understand which rights you assign to the publisher and which rights you retain.

If you have transferred your copyright to a publisher you may need permission from the publisher to re-use your own content.

Some agreements do permit re-use of your paper in an institutional repository (such as espace) as long as you:

  1. Use the accepted manuscript version rather than the published version
  2. Abide by an embargo, where the content cannot be made available for a specified time period
  3. Include a citation statement and link to the published version. The Publisher Summary table in the Library’s Guide to espace provides guidance on citation wording by publisher.

More information on espace and versions is available in the Guide to espace.

Can’t locate your publishing agreement? Sherpa Romeo is a searchable database of publisher policies and may be able to give you information about the appropriate version and any embargo periods for the journal. Note: Elsevier permits HDR students to deposit published versions of papers in their thesis which are subsequently available via espace (see their Article Sharing Policy for more information).

Where Rightslink is not an available option, the copyright permissions template for your own published works can be used when seeking permission for espace.

Further support

If you are unable to obtain copyright permission you can retain the third party copyright material in the version you submit for examination, as there is an exception in the Copyright Act to cover use of copyright material for examination purposes. However, you won’t be able to retain the third party copyright material for the public version you deposit into espace as the thesis will be available to the general public. You will need to:

  • Deposit a master archive version of your thesis to espace. The master archive version will be securely preserved by Curtin Library and not available via espace.
  • Deposit a public version of your thesis with the third party copyright material removed, replacing the material with the following statement:

“The [insert citation information] is unable to be reproduced here due to copyright restrictions. As an alternative, access the content via [insert URL, DOI, etc as applicable]”

The Library’s Guide to espace has further help on redacting signatures and third party copyright content.

There are circumstances where you can request a five year embargo for deposit into espace if the thesis contains confidential and/or sensitive material – for more information on this topic refer to the Guidelines for Deposit of Final Thesis page.

If you have further questions on copyright and your thesis, contact the Copyright team.