Copyright for researchers

Doing research means creating new knowledge that builds on existing knowledge. Use this page to understand copyright and related rights when undertaking your research.

Your research works, such as articles, books, datasets, diagrams, and practice-based research, are likely to be protected automatically by copyright. They may also be protected by other types of intellectual property, such as database rights, patents or design rights.

Copyright ownership

If you write a traditional "scholarly work" (such as a journal article or an academic monograph) 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 of Kent 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 Intellectual Property Policy explains who owns the legal rights associated with work created at Kent. 

Click the button below to email Research and Innovation Services, get support to maximise the impact of the intellectual property generated by your research and, where relevant, 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:

  • quotations, such as passages of text or music
  • images, such as photographs, maps, charts or graphs

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.

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 KAR.

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.

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).

If you need support in addressing the copyright issues and liaising with your publisher on this please contact us.

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 time for rights 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.

We are able to provide support to your project in addressing rights issues, such as with the Great War Theatre project.

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.

Please get in touch if you need help.

Using software for research

Licenced software

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

Open source software

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.

Sharing software applications in your research

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. When we've asked vendors in the past if they were happy for researchers to reproduce screenshots, they said this was acceptable.

If your research involves particularly innovative use of technology, the dividing line between software, data and metadata and who owns each element can become less clear. We can provide help if needed.


Click the button below to contact us with your questions, or to find out about training and specific guidance on copyright law.

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