Your Questions Answered


  1. Is it necessary to obtain copyright permission to reproduce a figure from a published article in my thesis, or is it sufficient that I just cite the article?
    . If you wish to reproduce the figure in a thesis which will be made available through the University's online Research Outputs Repository, then you should seek permission. If your thesis is for inclusion in the print collection of the Library only, then permission is not necessary; you may rely on the Fair Dealing provision for research or study to reproduce the figure, provided you credit the image and acknowledge the source.

    The Thesis Toolkit [PDF] has useful information pertaining to theses and contains a sample permission letter [DOCx] and copyright material log [DOCx].

  2. Do I need to seek permission to reproduce an image in the version of my thesis which I submit to the University's online research repository?
    Generally, yes. This is because when you reproduce an image - even an image based on raw data or facts and which you might have modified - you will more than likely be reproducing a substantial part of that work. Reproducing a substantial part of a work requires permission from the copyright owner, unless copyright in the work has expired or the copyright owner has licensed their work to be used in the manner you intend to use it.

  3. Can I reproduce photographs I have found on the web in a report I have written, provided that I reference the photographer and source of the photos?
    Not necessarily.

    For reports which will be distributed outside of the University you will need to seek permission from the copyright owner of each photograph.
    For all other reports, permission is not necessary.

  4. When I submit my thesis for inclusion in the UniSA Research Outputs Repository, can I include articles which I have previously had published? Will I be charged a fee for doing this?
    If your articles were published in an Open Access journal which allows authors to retain copyright, then there is no issue with reusing the articles.

    If you assigned copyright in the articles to the journal publisher, you will need to request permission to include them. This is because making them available to the public in the Research Outputs Repository is treated as though you were publishing the articles again, which is an exclusive right of the copyright holder. Consult the The Thesis Toolkit [PDF] for advice on seeking permission and contains a sample permission letter [DOCx] and copyright material log [DOCx].

    Individual publisher policies vary, but authors are less likely to be charged a fee to reuse their own work than other researchers. Alternatively, the publisher policies may permit archiving a manuscript version of the article without charge.

  5. How do I go about seeking approval to reuse content from websites that are no longer available?
    The answer to this depends, in part, on how much information you have about the images you wish to re-use.

    For example, if the images were made available by an organisation, it would probably be reasonable to contact that organisation for permission, especially if the organisation still exists.

    If the organisation no longer exists and there are no contact details available or the website has been taken down or moved, but you still have the original source URL, it might be reasonable to cite the URL and include a date, even if just the year that you accessed the site followed by:

    'All reasonable efforts have been taken to identify the copyright owner of this material. If you are the copyright owner or know who they are, please contact [insert contact details].'

  1. How many changes to something do I need to make to avoid infringing copyright?
    The test for this is not how different but how qualitatively similar the adapted work is to the original. It is the cumulative effect of the similarities which is important, not the differences. You also have a legal obligation to the creator of a work not to make additions or alterations which are prejudicial to the creator's honour or reputation.

    Generally, making changes to something won't avoid copyright infringement. You are also more likely to have a copyright issue to deal with if you are using any important, distinctive or essential part of the original material, even if that part is only small. When working out whether or not you will need to get permission, it is more important to look at what is still the same, rather than what has been changed.

  2. If I adapt a diagram, will I own copyright in the adapted diagram?
    Not necessarily. The test is not how much you change the original work, but what essential elements of that work remain the same. Therefore, if your adapted diagram is not discernibly different from the original, it is unlikely it will attract copyright protection as a new work.
  1. Do I always have to acknowledge material I have copied?
    Yes. Under Moral Rights legislation you must always ensure that any material copied is attributed to the copyright owner. This includes images copied from print sources or the internet, as well as audio-visual content. Acknowledging the source of your work will help you avoid claims of plagiarism.

    The Referencing Roadmap provides a comprehensive list of examples on how to reference/acknowledge material properly. Examples include websites, blogs, tweets, podcasts, YouTube videos, films, TV programs, maps, graphs, diagrams and images.

  2. Do I have to attribute an image that I have changed significantly to the point it may not be recognisable?
    Yes, you should always attribute the source of any work you have modified or adapted.
  1. Who is responsible (the author or the University) for ensuring all necessary clearances have been obtained to make my research publicly available through the University's online research repository?
    It is the author's responsibility to sort out the necessary clearances.

  2. Is there someone in the University I can contact for assistance with obtaining permission to reproduce a figure in my thesis?
    Copyright Services can provide assistance identifying who to contact for permission.

    However, it is your responsibility as the author of your thesis to obtain the necessary clearances for your thesis to be published online in the University's online research repository.

    For more information, please refer to the University's Thesis Toolkit [PDF]. It has useful information pertaining to theses and contains a sample permission letter [DOCx] and copyright material log [DOCx].

  3. If I assign my copyright to the publisher, isn't that at odds with the University's Open Access policy?
    Not necessarily. Even if you have assigned your copyright to your publisher, many publishers are now licensing back to their authors the right to archive a version (not necessarily the final published version) in the online research repository of the author's employing institution.

  4. Is there a limit on the number of words I can include in a quote without the need to seek permission?
    There is no rule as to the number or words you can quote from a work before you need to seek permission. As a guide, the Copyright Act defines an insubstantial portion as up to 1% of the pages in a printed work or up to 1% of the number of words in an electronic work.
Have you...
  • Ensured that you have used all copyright material included in your research in accordance with the terms of either:
    • an express permission granted by the copyright holder
    • a particular licence or contractual agreement
    • other applicable exemptions within the Copyright Act?
  • Have you obtained a written agreement from the copyright owner, with the details of the permission granted?
    • If yes, make sure you have not done anything with the copyright material which goes beyond the scope of the permission you have obtained.
  • Have you acknowledged the copyright material appropriately in your research (i.e. suitable author attribution and publication/source citation details)?
  • Have you done anything to the work which could have an adverse effect on the author's honour or reputation, such as altering, mutilating or distorting the work?
  • Have you kept a record of any permissions/licences used or obtained? You can record this information in the Thesis Toolkit's copyright material log.

Ask the Library

Opening Hours



*UniSA ID access may be required

Book a Room

Study rooms can only be booked by currently enrolled students

Make a booking (opens in a new window)