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What is copyright, can you include other people’s work in papers and who owns the copyright to your thesis? The Copyright Information Site provides information on this and can answer any queries you may have.

What you need to know

Copyright applies to documents, images, films, music and other scientific or artistic works. The creator doesn’t have to do anything to obtain copyright, as they receive it automatically.

Copyright allows the creator to decide how, where and when their work is published and reproduced. Copyright remains in force until 70 years after the death of the creator. Or, if the creator is a legal entity, until 70 years after the first publication of the work. On the death of the creator, copyright passes to their heirs. Copyright over a work can be transferred, such as to a publisher.

Using other people’s work

If you want to use work that is protected by copyright, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. There are two exceptions to this rule: First, you can make a copy of the work without the creator’s permission. This private copy may not be shared or distributed among other students. You cannot make a private copy of software unless the creator explicitly agrees to this.

Second, you can also quote from or paraphrase other people’s work without permission in papers and theses. A quotation means to include a short extract from someone else’s work, word for word. When you paraphrase, you must accurately reflect the intent of the other person’s work. In addition, the quotation or paraphrase must support the content of your work and you must not use more than you need. These conditions apply to texts and to PowerPoints, videos or other work.

Reusing other people’s work


Reuse means, among other things, sharing and disseminating other people’s work unaltered. Sometimes you can reuse the work without permission. This applies, of course, to works whose copyright has expired and to more recent works that have been published under a Creative Commons (CC) licence. With a CC licence, the creator forgoes certain rights. In that case, non-commercial reuse, including sharing with other students, is permitted. There are a number of different licences: Explanation of Creative Commons licences.

Acknowledging your sources

When using or reusing other people’s work, you must always acknowledge your sources. Proper acknowledgement of sources ensures that these works can be traced. How you cite your sources will depend on your study programme. Citation software automates the referencing of sources in a specific style. The UvA supports a number of different citation managers: Citing and Acknowledging Sources.

When assessing your work, we will always check that you have acknowledged your sources correctly and have not included anything without acknowledging the source (plagiarism), see: Plagiarism and fraud.

Your own work

Your BA or MA thesis is probably the first work that you will publish, by submitting it in UvA Scripties. As the creator, you own the copyright. Third parties must ask for permission to use it for reasons other than making a private copy or quoting/paraphrasing from your thesis. When submitting your thesis to UvA Scripties, you can specify that non-commercial reuse of your thesis is permitted without your consent, see: Publishing your thesis.

If your thesis contains images that you have produced yourself that depict a recognisable person, the person in the image can claim portrait rights. As the creator, you have copyright over the image, but you cannot publish it if the person depicted in it objects to it. Ideally, you should have the person(s) depicted in the image sign a declaration of consent before you publish the image. Images >> Portrait rights.