Copyright for researchers

Doing research means creating new knowledge that builds on existing knowledge. This page helps you understand how to navigate copyright and related rights when undertaking your research.

Copyright in research outputs

Your research outputs, such as papers, datasets, diagrams or even practice-based research are likely to be protected automatically by copyright. Depending on the nature of your research they may also be protected by other types of intellectual property, such as database rights, patents or design rights.

The detail of who owns the legal rights associated with work created at Portsmouth is in the University’s Intellectual Property Policy (pdf). If you write a traditional "scholarly work" (such as a journal article or an academic monograph) then you will own the copyright in that work, or will share the copyright with other co-authors or their employers.

In some cases the University will own the copyright in the outputs of your research, for example if you create software. In other cases funders, such as commercial organisations, may own the intellectual property arising from your research as stated in your funding agreement.

The University’s Research and Innovation Services team supports you in maximising the impact of the intellectual property generated by your research and, where relevant, can find ways of generating revenue.

Open Access publishing

You need to be aware of Open Access publishing and how it relates to your research.

Open Access publishing refers to material that is free to all readers at the point of access, so they can use and share it easily. In addition to being free of charge, true open access means the work must be free of legal restrictions on reuse. So if you're publishing Open Access you'll need to select the appropriate copyright licence.


You're likely to want to include other people's copyright material in your research outputs, for example:

 If you are quoting reasonable amounts and your quotation is properly cited, you don't need to get permission from the author or copyright owner. These uses are covered by the fair dealing copyright exception for quotation. If you're unsure of whether your use of copyright material is a fair and reasonable quotation contact us for help.

If your use of other people’s work is significant you may need to contact the copyright holder for permission

Copyright and your thesis

If you've used other people's work in your thesis, follow the guidance on including copyright or sensitive material when depositing your thesis into Pure.

You'll also need to consider the options for making your thesis available Open Access.

Using pre-existing content or data in your research

Facts can't be protected by copyright or any other type of intellectual property right. However, databases and datasets may be protected by copyright or database rights: check if there's a licence and what the conditions of use are. For example, geospatial data will typically come with a licence which may be open source, or may require you to agree to terms and possibly pay a licence fee.

You may be using existing creative works such as photographs or films as part of your research. If you have permission to use them from the copyright holder then all you need to do is abide by the terms of that agreement. You can also rely on copyright exceptions such as "non-commercial research and private study" if your use is fair. Please contact us if you need any help with this.

Clearing copyright for academic publications

If your work is going to be published in a book, journal or similar output your publisher is likely to ask you to clear copyright in all the content you want to include. Examples of these would be significant textual quotations, photographs, illustrations, diagrams or musical scores.

In some cases getting permission from copyright owners can be difficult or costly and you may want to discuss with your publisher whether your use is covered by fair dealing exceptions. It's also possible that you can't identify or get in touch with the copyright owners of the content you want to reproduce. These are known as "orphan works" (see below)

Working with archival material and orphan works

If your research involves working with archival material created within the last 100 years, it's likely that it will be protected by copyright. Most unpublished archival material from earlier than this is still in copyright in the UK.

Rights clearance in archival material

If you want to digitise and make these works available, you need to factor rights time on clearance into your research project. How much time and effort you need will depend on the material you're working with. For example, if you're working with archival material that has multiple copyright owners who would likely object to the material being made available, you will need to put significant resource into it.

Orphan works

In some cases it may not be possible to identify or get in touch with the copyright owner at all. These works are called orphan works and there are licensing schemes and exceptions in the UK that could allow you to make them available. However, both the licensing scheme and the exception have their disadvantages: you may need to make a risk-based decision to make some content available even where you haven’t cleared the rights.

Text and data mining

If you are using text and data mining (TDM) to undertake automated analysis of your datasets, you need to address the copyright issues.

Text and data mining involves copying and normalising your data. If this is protected by copyright or database rights you will need to either have a licence from the copyright owner or determine that the TDM exception applies to your activity. This exception allows you to apply TDM to any copyright works for non-commercial research purposes, as long as you have lawful access.

[In an Executive Summary published in June 2022, the Government announced a plan to introduce a new copyright and database exception that will allow TDM for any purpose. Rights holders will no longer be able to charge for UK licences for TDM and will not be able to contract or opt-out of the exception.]

Using software for research

The University pays for a number of licences for software that you can use for your research. These licences generally allow academic research; they would not allow you to do work commissioned by or directly benefitting a commercial partner. If you have any questions about this, please contact Information Services on +44 (0)23 9284 7777 or use the Contact IT Support page.

Some software is provided open source. This allows you to use it free of charge and potentially amend the source code. There are many types of open source licence. Some state that if you develop code based on the original source code, it must be released under the same licence.

You may want to provide screenshots from software applications in your research outputs. Although the copyright in the visual layout of a software application may be owned by the developer, it's likely that this use would be covered by an exception if properly credited. If you ask a vendor whether they are happy for you to to reproduce screenshots, it is likely that they will find this acceptable.


Copyright: For general help about copyright. Please contact

Research data: All question relating to the management, storage, security, licensing, backup etc of research data. Plus, the data management plan review service. Please contact

Open access: All questions relating to open access, REF eligibility, APC (gold) open access funding, Pure, etc. Please contact

All other specialist research related questions, such as ORCIDs, bibliometrics etc. Please contact


The content of this page has been adapted from the University of Kent copyright guidance that is licensed under CC-BY.