Copyright for Research & Publishing

Research student wearing protective eye goggles, working with laser machinery

Whether you are a student or academic, there are a range of copyright aspects to consider throughout your research project - from the access and use of resources, to publishing and selecting an open access licence.

Observing copyright requirements at each stage ensures good governance practices and supports academic integrity principles.

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research also recommends including copyright in the planning stage of a research project, among other considerations.

Further resources
Copyright Induction Course All staff should complete this course as part of the induction process
Copyright for Higher-Degree by Research (HDR) Course HDR students can earn two CaRST points upon completion


  • Using Open Educational Resources (OERs)

    OERs – including open access publications - consist of materials that are in the public domain or have been released under a Creative Commons or other open licence that permits some degree of use without purchase or permission. OER materials include textbooks, journals, courseware, software, datasets, images, music and video, among others.

    The Copyright Compliance Policy prioritises the use of OERs for University activities wherever possible. OERs are preferred for research projects as there are no limitations on copying them and they generally don’t require permission for re-use in a publication.

    See the OER How Do I guide for information on how to find OERs by discipline and format.

  • Using licenced material

    The University Library has commercial licences in place with over 120 vendors to provide staff and students with resources such as journals, data, ebooks, news, guides, audio, and video recordings.  

    While there are distinct licence terms for each resource, they typically permit users to access (view) and copy (download), albeit sometimes with certain limits. Some vendors also permit text and data mining (TDM). 

    General terms for a particular vendor can usually be found at the bottom of their webpage under ‘Copyright’ or ‘Terms and Conditions’ after clicking through from Library Search results or from the Library Database list. However, these may differ from the actual licence agreement with the University. In addition, a specific item may have a Creative Commons or other licence attached to it that overrides the licence agreement terms.   

  • Research or study exception

    If there is no licence applicable, the fair dealing exception for research or study permits copying of a reasonable portion of a work, generally up to:

    • 10% of the words or pages; 
    • 1 chapter or article; or 
    • Multiple articles from the same periodical (newspaper, magazine, journal) if it's for the same study. 

    If copying more than a reasonable portion, or copying other types of materials such as an artistic work, sound recording, film or broadcast, the following fairness factors must be considered, in aggregate:

    • Purpose of the copying (eg research or study); 
    • The nature of the work; 
    • Commercial availability of the work;
    • Effect of copying on the market for the work; and 
    • Amount and substantiality of the part used. 

    The exception covers personal and informal study but does not extend to publishing research. 

  • Using datasets

    Copyright subsistence generally requires some degree of human creative endeavour. As such, datasets of raw data tend not to attract copyright, while those that have been processed or compiled in some way may. For example, a spreadsheet of raw figures logged directly from a weather station would likely not be protected by copyright until that data had been cleaned or arranged in some way using the requisite skill and judgment.

    To reduce uncertainty, it's increasingly common for public datasets to be shared under licence terms that clearly state how it can be used. For instance, the University of Adelaide's Research Data and Primary Materials Policy requires research data to be released under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 licence where possible.  


  • Publishing agreements

    Agreement types

    Publishers generally require either assignment of all copyright or a licence to certain rights to proceed with publishing. 

    Publishing agreements can be categorised as shown in the table below. Note that assignment of copyright and exclusive licences are similar in that the author retains very limited rights to the work. Conversely, open licences (such as Creative Commons) are effectively a type of non-exclusive licence but offered to everyone. An open licence may also be combined with one of the other agreement types.

      Assignment Exclusive licence Non-exclusive licence Open licence
    Description Transfers copyright to a new owner Grants rights solely to another party The same rights can be granted to multiple parties Blanket grant of rights to everyone
    Copyright Owner Publisher Author Author Usually the author
    Can you use your own work without permission? No No Yes Yes
    Can others use your work without permission? No No Yes, within limits Yes, within limits
    Authority to grant permission Publisher (or delegate) Publisher (or delegate) Author Usually the author

    Publishing tips

    Key considerations for authors in relation to publishing include:

    Avoid copyright assignment or exclusive licensing Not retaining the rights means you will have to go back to the publisher for permission to reuse or quote from your own work. Agreements should at least include a licence back to the author in these circumstances.
    Publish open access

    Open access (OA) ensures wider distribution as researchers and institutions don’t have to pay to read or use the work.

    The University Open Access Policyrequires research outputs to be publicly available in the AR&S repository or an equivalent. 

    See the Publishing Open Access page for more information.

    Include an addendum to retain certain rights

    The University Open Access Policy and research funder policies may require that authors retain certain rights.  See Publishing Open Access for more information.

    For non-open access journals, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) provides an addendum template  that helps to select which rights to retain. 

    Avoid author processing charges (APCs)

    The Directory of Open Access Journals. (DOAJ) can filter out titles with APC fees.

    Further, the University’s Read & Publish Agreements negate APC fees with certain publishers as they are effectively covered by Library subscription fees.

    Avoid unnecessary embargo periods Publisher embargoes prevent the work from being made OA for a certain duration. See Grant Funding and Open Access for more information.
    Ensure rights reversion if not accepted Where an agreement is required upon submission, all rights should revert back to the author if the article is rejected.
    Use a co-author agreement For works of joint authorship, formally designate the corresponding author and their rights and responsibilities over contributing authors to avoid any future uncertainties.


  • Processing copyright clearances

  • Choosing an Open Access Licence

    Visit Open Access Publishing for information on selecting the most appropriate OA licence for your project.