Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, there are circumstances that enable the inclusion of copyright material without permission; these are known as copyright exceptions. When writing a thesis, an important copyright exception to consider is Section 30 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, known as ‘criticism, review, quotation, and news reporting.
Under the terms of this exception, if the third party material included in your thesis consists of a short extract of text or an illustration that is integral to your argument, it is unlikely that permission will need to be sought, provided that sufficient acknowledgement (i.e. correct referencing) is made. However, this does not apply if the source material has not been made available to the public.
As UK law does not provide an explicit definition that covers everything that may be used under Fair Dealing, it’s important that you apply reasonable judgement to the inclusion of copyright material. Consider the following:
- Could the use of material potentially cause conflict with the interests of its owner? For example, does using the work affect the market of the original work?
- Am I including more of the work than is justifiable in the context?
- Have I credited the author and source adequately in my thesis?
Should any case require consideration by the law, each case would need to be considered within the context of your work as well as the scale of the infringement – there are potentially serious legal consequences for failing to seek permission when required. If you are in doubt, it is best to seek permission.