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Copyright Guidelines

UniSA copyright guidelines


At UniSA, ownership of the copyright of Scholarly Works remains with the author(s) who created the Scholarly Work. The author of a Scholarly Work is deemed to have granted the University, unless otherwise agreed in writing with the University, a non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fee-free, transferable, worldwide licence to use the Scholarly Work for educational, teaching, research and commercialisation purposes, and for dissemination (including the deposit of an appropriate Open Access version in the UniSA Research Outputs Repository).

UniSA authors should aim to retain copyright of a suitable version of their scholarly works where possible, to facilitate Open Access distribution of their work. Where the publisher insists on the transfer of copyright, authors may utilise an addendum to assert their right to deposit an accepted manuscript with an appropriate Creative Commons licence into UniSA's Research Outputs Repository (ROR).

Depositing material in the University’s Research Outputs Repository does not transfer copyright to ROR. Copyright remains with the author or publisher, as per the agreement or licence made at the time of publication, and in line with the University's Intellectual Property and Moral Rights Policy. Where possible, UniSA authors should apply a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence to their work; this allows others to copy and redistribute your article in any medium or format, and for any purpose, providing the original source is attributed. For more information about Creative Commons licensing, please refer to the licensing information at Creative Commons.

Creative Commons Licenses Explained
by Jillian Maynard
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Researchers are responsible for ensuring that all research outputs meet the requirements of UniSA's Open Access policy. Researchers are also responsible for ensuring all necessary permissions from third parties have been gained prior both to deposit and publication.

Any Higher Degree Research theses which contain material where the copyright is owned by a third party (such as graphs, diagrams, drawings, sound and film) either must include evidence that permissions have been obtained or the content must be removed before submission to ROR. To assist Higher Degree Research students with this process, the University has made available the Thesis Toolkit, which includes copyright and permissions checklists, a sample permission letter, and a copyright material log to be used for recording progress with seeking any necessary clearances. Where the student is only copying quotes or short extracts these do not need permission; however correct attribution must be given.

Making your research available to the public

You make your research available to the public when you publish it in a journal or a book, or when you make it available online or otherwise electronically transmit it to the public.

Communicating your work to the public can also be an act of publication if the work which you're making available online hasn't previously been made available to the public (for example, to download or to view).

When you make your research available via the University’s Research Outputs Repository, you are communicating your work to the public.

As the author and first owner of copyright in your work, it is important that you understand how the copyright choices you make may affect how broadly you can share your research.

Publishing your research with a commercial publisher will generally require that you sign a publication agreement setting out how copyright in your research output is managed. Publication agreements vary from publisher to publisher, and may also vary depending on whether your work is being published as a book, journal article, or other type of research output. Whether you publish your research behind a paywall or Open Access will also have an impact on the terms of the agreement and the final licence applied to the work.

Therefore, before you sign, scrutinise your agreement and consider:

  • the rights you want to retain
  • the ways you want to use and develop your own work without restriction
  • how to increase access to your work for educational and research purposes
  • your right to be properly attributed when your work is used
  • your right to deposit your work in an online archive or repository
  • the requirement to adhere to the Open Access policies of the ARC, NHMRC and UniSA
  • your publisher's right for a non-exclusive licence to publish and distribute your work for a financial return
  • your publisher's right to be properly attributed and cited
  • your publisher's right to migrate your work to future formats and include it in collections.

For additional information about publishing, including Open Access publishing, please refer to the Library's Publishing and Open Access guides.

Transferring (assigning) copyright

If your publisher agreement asks you to transfer your copyright to the publisher, and the agreement isn't qualified in any way, only the publisher will be able to reproduce, publish, communicate, perform or adapt your work, thus preventing you from re-using or distributing your work without permission from the publisher.

Unconditionally assigning copyright to a journal publisher means:

  • You may not be allowed to post a copy on your own webpage or deposit a copy in UniSA's Research Outputs Repository.
  • You may have to ask permission—and perhaps even pay a royalty—to use your research as a teaching resource.
  • Only subscribers to the journal will be able to read your work. This can seriously restrict the impact and visibility of your research.

Exclusive vs non-exclusive licences

Under an exclusive licence, you grant certain rights to the licensee (i.e. the publisher) to deal with your work in the way(s) covered by the licence and for the term of the licence. These rights are exclusive to the licensee, to the exclusion of all others—including yourself.

The rights granted might include the right to publish, communicate and distribute the published work online, and to sub-licence. If the licence includes the right to sub-licence, the publisher can grant the rights given to them to a third party (e.g. to allow another publisher to publish the work in another territory or to translate the work into another language). While the agreement is in place, you cannot grant the same rights to anyone else.

Granting a licensee a non-exclusive licence to deal with your work in a certain way means that you may continue to use your work in that way, and you can also grant others a non-exclusive licence to use your work in that way.

Open Access agreements

Under an Open Access licence (typically a Creative Commons licence), you retain all rights for future use. When you licence your work under a Creative Commons licence, your work will be made freely available for further distribution under the terms of the selected Creative Commons licence.

Implied licences

If you are not asked to sign a publishing agreement, your publisher only has the right to publish your work for the purpose for which it was submitted (e.g. publication in the particular issue of the journal to which the article was submitted).

Managing copyright in your thesis

Under the University’s Intellectual Property policy, authors own copyright in their theses. This means that until you assign your copyright to someone else, you have the exclusive right to:

  • reproduce your thesis
  • publish your thesis
  • make your thesis available online to the public.

You also have moral rights in your thesis.

As the author of your thesis, it is your responsibility to seek clearance or permission if your thesis contains material created by others, or where copyright has been transferred to a third party. Examples of copyright material for which you may need to seek permission include:

  • figures and tables
  • images (diagrams, charts, photographs)
  • articles or book chapters written by you but where you have assigned your copyright to a publisher.

To help you manage the permission-seeking process, please refer to UniSA's Thesis Toolkit. It has useful information pertaining to theses, and contains a sample permission letter as well as a copyright material log.

Who to contact

To reproduce anything more substantial than a short quote or extract generally requires permission from the copyright owner. This is usually the creator or publisher of the work. The following table is a list of initial contacts for assistance with seeking permission:

Type of work

Initial contact

Published book or journal article


Unpublished work


Artistic work (including photographs)


Films, videos and TV programs

Production company

Music (scores and notated music)


Recorded music

Record company

What if you cannot identify the copyright owner?

If you have taken all reasonable efforts to identify the copyright owner of a work, and you still cannot identify who owns the copyright, you can use the following statement (as a last resort):

Source unknown. 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

Seeking permission via the Copyright Clearance Center

If the work you wish to reproduce has been published by one of the major publishers (e.g. Elsevier, Wiley, Springer), you will generally be directed to seek permission through the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). This is a relatively quick and simple process, usually resolved in minutes, and many publishers will permit you to include copies of your own work in your thesis gratis.

To seek permission via CCC:

  1. Locate the publisher page for the publication containing the content you wish to reproduce.
  2. On that page, you will usually find a permission link, which will direct you to CCC's online permission request form.
  3. To request permission, follow the prompts on the form.

As part of the process, you may be asked to set up an account; accounts are free and only take a short time to set up.

When submitting your thesis, ensure you not only include a copy of the licence agreement but also acknowledge the licensed work.

Copyright, publishing and theses: When is permission required? is a 3 minute video created by the UniSA Library, explaining when you might need to seek permission for including previously-published material in your thesis, followed by a demonstration of how to use CCC to seek permission.

Copyright checklist

  • 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?
    • If yes, you will need to either remove such elements or seek and receive permission from the author to include them.
  • Have you kept a record of any permissions/licenses used or obtained? You can record this information in the Thesis Toolkit's copyright material log.