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Copyright guide

This is a companion guide to the RMIT Copyright webpages for staff and students.

Copyright - Fair dealing and research

Students or researchers are able to rely upon using a ‘reasonable portion" of copyright works in assignments or research work at RMIT. The Copyright Act states that a reasonable portion under the fair dealing provisions is 10% or one chapter of a book, or one article from any one issue of a journal. If the material you want to reproduce is in digital format, then you can copy 10% of the number of words or one chapter if the work is clearly divided into in chapters. For artistic works, film/video, and sound recordings there is no simple rule as to how much you can copy for research and study purposes.

The fair dealing provisions research and study only apply whilst enrolled, or undertaking research once studies or research has been completed any copyright works used under the fair dealing provisions will require permission if the research output or assignment is to be published publicly.

For example, as part of a research project I plan to use published questionnaires, I am covered by the fair dealing provisions for using the questionnaires as part of the project. If I then publish the research findings using text from the published questionnaires or wish to include the questionnaires into the final (electronic) archival copy within the RMIT Research Repository, fair dealing no longer applies and I would need to gain permission from the copyright holders to use the published questionnaires publicly.

Any public use of copyright works rules out the fair dealing provisions.

Can I include third party images and articles?

Can you include images, figures, diagrams, photographs, journal articles & conference papers in your thesis - YES

The copyright act has fair dealing provisions that allow students to include copyright works into theses for research and study purposes that include research and examination.

Do you need permission to include copyright works into your thesis for examination – NO.

You need permission to use copyright works in your thesis if it is published or used outside of research and study purposes. This includes publishing via the RMIT Research Repository, publishing a chapter as a journal article or chapter, presentation at a conference that is published or presented publicly.

When publishing the final archive copy of your thesis you have two options with regard to images, figures, diagrams, photographs, journal articles & conference papers:

1. Remove them and place reference statements in their place

2. Gain permission for the works to be included in your thesis to be published via the Research Repository.

The following text can be used as an image placeholder when removing images due to copyright restrictions. Don't forget to include the citation under the image so others can source the image if needed.  

<Image removed due to copyright restrictions>

Can I publish an article from my thesis?

Is it ok to publish an article from my thesis once it is publicly available via the RMIT Research Repository?

Once a thesis is published via the RMIT Research Repository an article can be published from the thesis. In publishing the article there are two key considerations, the copyright transfer agreement provided by the publisher, and referencing any text or data taken directly from the thesis back to the original source - the thesis.

When publishing an article you will be required to sign over rights in the article to the publisher usually in the form of a copyright transfer agreement.  Transfer agreements contain the terms under which copyright will be transferred to the publisher. One of the terms listed in the agreement will ask if the article has been published elsewhere.  It is here that you as the author need to advise the publisher that the article is derived or is a direct extract from your thesis which is available publicly in the RMIT Research Repository.  

In using extracts of text or data from your thesis in a published article the text or data must be treated in the same manner as you would if you were using text or data from another source such as a book, or journal article.  It must be referenced correctly back to the original source - the thesis.

I have a thesis with publications, how can I ensure it is copyright compliant for open access availability?

What happens if you have published your research as a journal article or other publication and your supervisor advises you can include it in the body of your thesis?  

See also:  

RMIT Policy: HDR Submission and Examination Procedure

Research students, Resources and support: Including publications in your thesis

If you are completing your thesis with publications, there are important copyright considerations.  Copyright applies differently if you are considering submission for marking or publishing your thesis in the research repository. 

Marking and examination 

For examination purposes, your publications are permitted to be included in your thesis under the Australian Copyright Act (1968) Fair dealing provisions for research or study.  

Publishing and archival submission 

In general, the expectation is that all RMIT theses will be made available in the Research Repository.  To include your publications in your thesis for open access via the Research Repository, your options are: 

  • include your publication in your thesis where allowed within the publisher's policy  

  • gain permission directly from your publisher 

  • or, where not permitted by the publisher, remove the article and include the citation with a link to the publication and explanatory statement instead. 

When you publish material you will frequently transfer copyright to the publisher, unless you have negotiated to retain these rights.  Check your publisher's agreement to determine which rights you have retained and those which you have transferred to the publisher. Ideally, your publisher agreement will provide information on whether or not the open access availability of your thesis containing the full text your articles, is permitted. The version of the publication is dependent on the applicable publisher policy or copyright owner requirement.  

Alternatively, check the pages below for your publisher's policy on this. 

MIT Thesis content and article publishing list 

Sherpa Romeo 

If it is unclear if you can include your publications within the body of your thesis, contact the publisher via email to verify their policy on this in writing. 

If you do not secure permission, or your publisher agreement does not allow publication in the Research Repository, you will need to omit the publications and put an explanatory statement in its place with a full citation and link to the publication instead. 

If your thesis contains any material subject to copyright and you do not have permission to publish it publicly, you must provide two copies for final archival lodgement - one full version for long term preservation by the University and a second version prepared for open access availability via the Research Repository.  

Please refer to the Archival Lodgement Guide for the procedure.

The following text can be used as a placeholder when removing your publications due to copyright restrictions.  Don't forget to include the citation under the image so others can source the image if needed. Check your user agreement or policy for how your publisher would like to be attributed. 

[article removed due to copyright restrictions] 


[Copyright material omitted]

Is citing a source enough?

Is citing the source of the online publicly available image adequate?  If so what are the protocols?
Referencing (citing) copyright works is standard academic practice and is separate from copyright.  When an individual uses a copyright work there are two requirements:

(a) make sure the work can be used in line with copyright law

(b) adhere to academic standards of referencing

Therefore citing (referencing) a work doesn't remove the need to ensure the work is used within copyright legislation.

What if I change an image?

I believe that if an image is changed more than a certain percentage, it is regarded as not the original image, hence copyright not required.  Is this the case?
This is a well-versed academic myth, a copyright holder has the right of reproduction in their work, reproducing a work to alter a work is an act of copyright.  Copyright is infringed when a substantial part of a copyright work is reproduced. Substantial is just as much about quality as it is about quantity.  Altering a copyrighted work relies heavily on whether in using the work you have used a substantial part of the work and whether the copyright holder can recognise their work in the altered work.  If the answer is yes, the altered work would be considered a breach of copyright.

Copyright and your thesis (Research Plus)

Copyright and your thesis (Research Plus) (49 mins) by RMIT University Library, Microsoft Stream (RMIT login required).