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Electronic submission and archiving your thesis

Under Senate Regulations, you are required to submit your thesis for examination in electronic format and to deposit the final thesis including corrections in BURA, the University's online research archive, following confirmation of the award. BURA gives you the opportunity to keep a permanent archive of your work and to promote your research profile.

Copyright and other intellectual property rights, research ethics, and other issues may have an impact on whether your thesis is eligible for archiving. The relevant issues may depend on the nature of your research, and should be considered and planned for wherever possible from the beginning of your programme.

The Research Code of PracticeThesis guidelines and Submitting your thesis web pages outline University policy, procedures and regulations relating to your thesis. For copyright advice, contact the University's Copyright Officer or the Academic Liaison Librarian for your department or research institute.

Copyright ownership of your thesis

You, the author, are the first owner of copyright in your thesis.

Depositing your thesis in BURA doesn't transfer copyright ownership to the University. You merely grant a perpetual non-exclusive licence to the University to archive your thesis and related metadata in BURA, and for these to be harvested by the British Library and included in the UK's national collection of electronic theses, EThOS.

Copyright can be assigned to third parties, eg publishers, institutions or organisations, and it's important that you don't transfer your copyright unknowingly.

Where your research is sponsored or commissioned by an external organisation, employer or conducted on placement, you may be asked to sign a contract or confidentiality agreement, which may have implications for the future dissemination of your thesis if there are clauses relating to the research outcomes and output. 

Before signing any agreements, you should consult your supervisor in the first instance and/or the Research Support and Development Office (RSDO). RSDO's Contracts and IP Section will be able to advise on the implications of contractual clauses and recommend the most suitable course of action.

Using third party copyright material in your thesis

As part of your research, you may review and include third party copyright material in the body of your thesis or in its appendices. In UK copyright law, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to control the reproduction or dissemination of their work in electronic format to the public, except where covered by statutory exceptions in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended).

Key exceptions which may allow you to use and include third party material in your thesis for examination and subsequent online archiving in BURA, without the need to obtain permission are S.29 Research and private study, S.30 Criticism, review, quotation and news reporting, and S.32 Illustration for instruction. Your use should be fair dealing, and when judging whether it might be 'fair' you should consider the the quality and quantity of the extents used and the impact the use may have on the copyright owner's interests.

If no exceptions apply, you will need explicit consent from the copyright owner to include the material in the publicly archived version of your thesis. You should obtain permission from the copyright owner for all substantial uses of third party material as these are unlikely to be fair dealing.

It's your responsibility to secure all necessary rights clearance and it may be easier to do this while conducting your research. When you do so, you must obtain explicit written or email permission to include the work in your thesis which will be made available in a public-facing open access repository. Examples of content that may typically require permission include company documents, film clips, images or music scores. Unpublished, confidential or sensitive material will also require rights clearance.

When obtaining consent, you should obtain a warranty that the person granting consent is authorised to do so. As a rule, published material is generally owned or controlled by the publisher so copyright owners are much easier to trace and to contact. Some material may have multiple layers of copyright, for example, a film may contain music, dialogue, etc which may need separate clearance unless the rights are managed by a sole agent. For further advice contact the Copyright Officer.

Confidential or sensitive information

In addition to third party copyright content, you may need to use sensitive data, or may wish to reproduce confidential information.

Where information is not in the public domain, extra care must be taken to secure consents, as you may breach the law of confidential information, as well as copyright law. With sensitive or personal data there may be data protection or ethical implications. Your supervisor will be able to advise further.

It may be that your thesis will need to be embargoed for a period. The initial embargo period is three years, but if appropriate it is possible to renew it. If you need to renew an embargo, you should contact the Library in advance of its expiry. Embargoed theses will be released after the expiry date. See Submitting your thesis.

The Freedom of Information Act and your thesis

Your thesis is currently subject to the Freedom of Information Act, as the University is a public authority as defined in the Act.

This means that unless your thesis meets the statutory criteria for exemption under this, or another Act of Parliament and is therefore embargoed, we must supply a copy of your thesis to anyone who requests it. For advice see Freedom of Information.

Other intellectual property rights and your thesis

Where your thesis contains commercially exploitable designs or other content, it may not be suitable for online deposit, and may need to be embargoed.

If your thesis contains enabling disclosure of a new invention, your supervisor will normally have identified patentable content well before submission, and will recommend the best course of action. Strict confidentiality procedures apply to these. RSDO can advise.

Publishing your thesis

You may wish to publish your thesis, in whole or in part, with or without modification. If you will be publishing substantial amounts of third party copyright material in your thesis, it is important to obtain clearance from any copyright owners, so that you are able to do so without delay or complications. Insubstantial amounts of copyright material, e.g. in short quotations, is accepted academic practice, and also permitted under statutory exceptions for research in UK copyright law, provided the publishing is non-commercial. Academic publication is generally considered to be non-commercial, as authors are not paid, but publishers may not be covered to sell the work. Having permissions in place is favoured by publishers for this reason.

You must make sure you have properly cited or acknowledged all third party ideas and content to avoid allegations of plagiarism. 

Where your thesis is sponsored and you have signed contractual agreements, you may need to check that publication will not breach those contracts leaving you or the University open to legal action.

Archiving your thesis in BURA is required under University regulations, so it is important where you publish your thesis in whole or in part, that you tell your publisher of this requirement to deposit your final thesis in the University's open access research archive.

As standard, many publishers ask you to transfer full copyright ownership to them, however, as a contract, it must be open to negotiation, and you should try to retain your copyright ownership if possible. You may be able to choose an open access option, giving the publisher a licence to publish. If publishing with a Brunel academic as co-author, you must publish using open access mechanisms under University policy. This gives your work maximum visibility and raises your profile, and that of the University.

It's possible for work to be placed under a temporary embargo where it will be published. However you should advise your publisher, that the thesis will be archived in BURA, when the embargo expires. See Submitting your thesis for more information on applying for an embargo.

Useful contacts

For further advice about these or other copyright issues, see other topics on our Copyright pages or contact the Copyright Officer. For general thesis enquiries, contact the Library Thesis team.