Copyright for Researchers

A researcher using a pipette in a labratory.

You are usually allowed to use copyright works in your research outputs, including your PhD thesis, under certain conditions. You must ensure any work is properly cited, and that you have only used a reasonable amount of the work. The usual fair dealing questions apply to research just as they do to teaching and student works.

How you reuse works can depend on the type of work you are using. Find out more about how to reuse different kinds of copyright work here.

If you are publishing your academic work, your publisher might require you to have explicit permission to include anything produced by a third party. You can get permissions directly from the owner, although there will sometimes be a fee attached. Contact info can usually be found on a publisher or copyright owner's website. Please contact copyright@contacts.bham.ac.uk if you are having difficulty finding the owner of a copyright work.

Ownership

You are the owner of the work you produce for your university assignments including your PhD thesis, unless you consigned any rights over to a funder during your funding application. Make sure you establish who owns your work with your funder. If you are employed by the University, see University Code of Practice for Research, 6.1 and 6.2.

 When publishing your academic work in a journal, you may be asked to sign your copyright over to the publisher. It is important you read the terms of your publishing agreement closely to ensure you are aware of the rights you consign. You may wish to enter into negotiation with your publisher if you are uncomfortable with any of the rights being signed over. If you find the terms of your publishing contract unclear, please contact copyright@contacts.bham.ac.uk for guidance.

You may wish to publish research you produced for your PhD thesis or another university assignment. If your PhD thesis has already been published in our eTheses repository, you will have selected a licence to release it under. If you chose to retain the rights in your thesis, then provided you have established that you own the work, you are free to assign them to a publisher. You should read the terms of your publishing contract carefully to be sure you consider them fair.

 If you chose to release your work under a Creative Commons licence, you will need to disclose to your publisher that your research is openly available online. It will then be up to your publisher to decide the terms of your publishing contract, but they cannot restrict the terms of the original licence. Make sure you read your Creative Commons licence thoroughly and are familiar with the terms. You can read the terms of each Creative Commons licence here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/.

If you would like to publish research produced for your PhD thesis before you upload your thesis to the eTheses repository, it is recommended that you do not release your work under a Creative Commons licence when uploading, unless it is being published as an Open Access work. You should inform your publisher that the work has been made available on the repository.

Open Access

In order to comply with new policy on publications or proceedings eligible for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF), you may be required to make some of your outputs available as ‘open access’. Open access is not just about the REF and is also an opportunity to make your research available to wider audiences outside academia. Making your work available openly does not mean you have to forego the copyright you hold in the work.

There are a variety of ways in which you can make your work open access – you can find out more about publishing and licensing your work open access here.

Text and Data Mining

Text and data mining (TDM) is an important tool in contemporary research which is gaining in popularity and influence. There is an exception to the law in the United Kingdom which allows those conducting research at the University to conduct TDM analysis under certain conditions:

  • You must have lawful access to the source material – this would include any journals and databases the University subscribes to, or material that is openly legally available to the public
  • The purpose of your analysis is non-commercial research – this includes any research which is not produced for commercial purposes, even if it is commercially funded
  • You cite the source of your data, unless it is not practically possible to do so

This exception is enshrined in law and contract cannot be used to override it. That means even if a licence or terms of use for a resource forbids text and data mining, you can rely on this exception to conduct TDM provided it is conducted non-commercially. You may nevertheless find that some databases and websites install Technical Protection Measures (TPM) to prevent large-scale downloading of data. This is legal provided it does not reasonably interfere with the law.

Social Networks

Sharing content in public online networks is different to using it in your academic work. When sharing a copyright work  on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, you often give rights to those websites to use your work as they choose. It is always advised to share a link to the original rather than re-upload the content directly.

When using academic networks like Research Gate and Academia.edu to upload your own published work, always check your publishing agreement to ensure you have permission to share the work online. If you don’t, you will need to have explicit permission from your publisher to upload the work or you will be infringing copyright.

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