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Copyright for researchers

Access information about copyright during the different stages of your research project

What is Copyright?

The Copyright basics page gives a brief introduction to copyright and is an important starting point for learning about your rights and obligations under the Copyright Act.

Commencing Research

Copyright ownership

The USQ Intellectual Property Policy states, “Ownership of copyright in Scholarly Material or Artistic Works produced by an Employee shall remain with that Employee unless it is commissioned by the University as part of the Employee’s duties or created as part of a contractual obligation between USQ and a third party”.

It is important to ascertain when signing a contract regarding your research eg. with an employer or a funding body, who will own the copyright in the work after you have signed. If you are part of a collaborative research partnership, this may also impact on who owns the copyright of the research output, including datasets.

To learn more about copyright, go to the Copyright Basics page.

As part of your research plan, it is important to plan to manage the copyright of any third party material that you plan to use in your research. Should you need to organise permissions to use copyrighted material, you need to factor in the time it may take to secure permissions and if there are any costs involved.
It is important to be aware of what you are able to do within copyright law, this will allow you to make decisions regarding when you need to seek permission to use third party materials in certain ways. These are the main areas to be aware of when making copyright decisions 

Fair Dealing for Research or Study
  • The Copyright Act allows a ‘reasonable portion’ of an item to be copied for research or study.
  • Reasonable portion has been defined as:
    • A Literary, Dramatic or Musical Work or an adaptation of that work in print form - 10% of the number of pages or a single chapter.
    • A Literary, Dramatic or Musical Work or an adaptation of that work in electronic form - 10% of the number of words or a single chapter.
Resources provided under licence or contract
  • USQ enters into a commercial licence agreement which provides access to online journals and electronic books; this takes precedence over the Copyright Act and is undertaken with suppliers for the provision of electronic resources.
  • When including these items in your research, it is important to be aware of any restrictions that may have been put in place by the copyright owner, look at the copyright information within the resource. Contact the Copyright Information Officer should you require assistance locating this information.
Open Access Licensed resources
  • Open Access Licences build on intellectual property rights with a licence applied by the copyright owner providing guidance regarding usage.
  • See the Creative Commons Australia About the Licences page for further information regarding how the licences work.
  • It is very important to note that if you use a Creative Commons licensed item, it may impact on how you can make your research output available. For example, if you use an item which has the “Non-Commercial” attribute attached you need to ensure that your research output is non-commercial in nature, unless you receive permission from the copyright owner to use it in another way. To assist with this issue, Creative Commons has created a Compatibility Wizard.

During Research

Gaining permissions to use copyrighted items

For full details on requesting permissions to use copyrighted items, see the Copyright Permissions page.

On gaining permission, you are required to fulfil the terms and conditions that are placed on the item, at a minimum you should:

  • credit the work to the original author and the source of the material used (eg. reference in a footnote, endnote or in-text reference); and
  • unless otherwise agreed, state whether you have altered the work from what the author originally produced; and
  • unless otherwise agreed not do anything which could damage the author’s honour or reputation, for example altering, mutilating or distorting the work in a way that has an adverse effect on the author’s honour or reputation; and
  • not do anything with the copyright material which goes beyond the scope of the permission you have obtained from the copyright owner
    (O’Brien & Fitzgerald 2007, p. 16).

How you wish to publish your research impacts on the level of copyright permissions that you request. For example, if you wish to include a third party item and publish it under a Creative Commons licence, you will need to see the permission of the copyright owner to do so.

Copyright Material Log

The Copyright Material Log can be used to keep a log of copyright for items contained within your research and your progress towards gaining permission to use the item.

Copyright Checklist for Researchers

Access the Copyright Checklist for Researchers before you publish your research to check you have covered all copyright considerations.

Copyright and your thesis

At the start of your research, you would have ascertained who owned the copyright in your final work, see Copyright Ownership.

If you own the copyright in the item, copyright protection is automatic once it is written.

Publishing Research

Publishing with a Publisher

It is important to be aware of the copyright implications when publishing your work. Many publishers require creators to sign away their copyright ownership, and there are implications in how you may then disseminate your work (i.e. does your licence allow you to store a copy of your work in a repository, such as USQ ePrints).

The following is a general overview of common licence agreements. If you are unsure of the specifics of your licence agreement contact the Copyright Information Officer.

Publisher / Publisher’s Agreements 

A copyright agreement or licence is a permission or authorisation from the copyright owner to use their material in ways which fall within the copyright owner's exclusive rights. An agreement can be:

  • Exclusive - an author grants an exclusive licence, only the licensee can use the work in the way covered by the licence. The author would need to ask for the licensee's permission to use the work in that way. 
  • Non-exclusive - If the author grants a non-exclusive licence, specific rights for particular actions are generally defined. The author can continue to use the work in the way covered by the licence. The author may also grant other people non-exclusive licences to use the work in a particular way.

If you wish to publish an item as open access, be sure to check the publisher’s approach to open access and self-archiving. They may allow self-archiving, otherwise request clearance to self-archive. It is better to check the policy before submitting an article for peer review.

Look at the journal's website for links called 'Notes to contributors' or 'Information for authors'. The information could be in the publishing contract. Read it carefully before signing. Here is an example of what to look for:

"The Author(s) shall have the following rights 4) The right to post and update the Article on free-access e-print servers as long as files prepared and/or formatted by APS or its vendors are not used for that purpose. Any such posting made or updated after acceptance of the Article for publication shall include a link to the online abstract in the APS journal or to the entry page of the journal. If the author wishes the APS-prepared version to be used for an online posting other than on the author(s)’ or employer’s website, APS permission is required; if permission is granted, APS will provide the Article as it was published in the journal, and use will be subject to APS terms and conditions”.
(excerpt from the American Physical Society's Transfer of Copyright form)

For more information on a specific publisher’s copyright and self-archiving policies see:

If these steps are taken and you are still unsure regarding permissions to self-archive, it is best to request permission from the publisher directly. 

Alternatives to Traditional Publishing Approaches

Open Access (OA)

Open Access allows researchers to make their research freely available for all individuals, rather than making users pay for access (i.e. either through a journal subscription or download fees). Since much of the research conducted in Australia is through publically funded universities, OA provides a benefit to researchers and those wishing to access and make use of your material. OA ensures that your work can be more easily found, downloaded and shared (and not just through traditional scholarly means but also through newer forms of communication, such as social media), increasing citation rates. Furthermore, publishing OA ensures optimal return on public investment.

 Benefits of Open Access

CC BY Danny Kingsley & Sarah Brown (

Open Access Approaches

OA publishers often allow the dissemination of “versions” of your publication (i.e. into an institutional repository like ePrints). At the time of your agreement it is important to note which version you are able to share:

  • Submitted Version: (also known as the pre-print) – this is the version the author sends to the publisher for review.
  • Accepted Version: (also known as the post-print) – this version is still in manuscript form but includes corrections associated with the peer review process. This is the version that is most commonly included in institutional repositories.
  • Published Version: (publisher’s PDF) – this includes the publishers format (i.e. logos, hyperlinked references, pagination and other formatting consistent with journal publications). Few publishers allow this version to be shared in repositories, even after an embargo period.

If you wish to publish an item as open access, be sure to check the publisher’s approach to open access and self-archiving.

Many publishers also impose an embargo period whereby work may be stored in a repository but not made available through open access.

Some funding bodies, such as the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Research Council ae mandating that research should be made available via open access as soon as possible after the date of publication. For a brief summary of ARC and NHRC policies and Open Access click here.

Green Open Access

Green OA (or ‘green’ open access publishing) allows authors to “self-archive” a version of their work in an institutional (i.e. ePrints) or subject based repository (i.e. arXiv, SSRN, RePEc or PubMed Central). If your work is made OA, it may be possible to share it on ResearchGate,, Twitter, Facebook, your website etc.

Gold Open Access

Researchers may choose to publish in an open access journal, whereby the journal provides free online access to the content of the journal. Gold OA journals have varied business models, which may involve an article processing charge. It may, however, be possible to include this processing charge in grant applications, should you decide to publish open access at the time of application.

Open Access and Monographs

Open Access has been slower to take off within the monograph publication industry. However, there are OA alternatives:
The AOASG website provides a useful overview of OA options for publishing monographs, including:
  • information on ePresses (both nationally and internationally);
  • commercial publishers who offer OA options; 
  • OA monograph publishers; and 
  • new developments in the business models of such enterprises such as Freemium, Crowdsourcing and Knowledge Unlatched.

Checklist when Publishing Open Access

The existence of Predatory publishers has been well documented. However, there are a few simple steps to follow when choosing the right OA journal for you:

  • Check that the journal has an ISSN 
  • Check the members of the Editorial Board for the journal you want to publish in. Are they listed on the website? Are they real people? Do they know they are on the list? 
  • Have members of the Editorial board published in the journal? – You should expect that they have published at least once. 
  • Have you received any bulk emails from the journal, approaching you about publishing in their journal? This is the most obvious sign of a predatory publisher and the journal is best avoided. 
  • Check the website and published journal articles for spelling errors – this is a simple indicator of publication quality 
  • Check the Chief Editor’s email – they should have an institutional or organisational email account NOT a generic account (i.e. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc.) 
  • Check the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) for your publisher. Journals in this directory must meet criteria prior to being listed 
  • Check databases (such as Scopus, PubMed or Web of Science) as high quality OA journals are indexed within these databases 
  • Check the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) to see if your chosen journal is a member. OASPA requires members to adhere to very specific criteria with regards to OA.
    (Darnell 2013)

Publishing Your Data

Funding bodies, which have already mandated OA policies, are encouraging, or in some cases, mandating Open Data. Furthermore, some journals are requesting researchers to make their data available for peer review at the time of publication. This has significant implications and is something that must be seriously considered when you write your data management plan, including storage and indexing.

See the following websites for further information regarding Open Data -
Australian National Data Service (ANDS)
Research Data Australia

Choosing a Creative Commons Licence

It is important to be aware of the different Creative Commons licensing types when publishing your work. Some Open Access journals recommend you licence your work with the most open Creative Commons Licence – Attribution - CC-BY – which will allow others to share, remix, tweak and build upon your work, even commercially, but they must acknowledge you as the original creator.

It is also important to be aware of the compatibility of Creative Commons licences throughout your research, as the use of certain Creative Commons licensed third party material may restrict the Creative Commons licences you can then license your work under – not all Creative Commons licences are compatible with one another.

The Creative Commons website has several tips which you might find useful when making licensing decisions for your work.
Considerations for licensors
About the Licenses
Marking your work with a CC licence

Compatible Licence Types

There are Creative Commons Licences Compatibility Wizard that can act as a guide regarding licensing choices. These are to be used as a guide only and should be used as an indicator of compatible licence types. Should you require further advice contact the Copyright Information Officer


  • The University of Southern Queensland has an open access repository called USQ ePrints.
  • The purpose of University of Southern Queensland ePrints is to create a consolidated archive of the intellectual output of University of Southern Queensland researchers, scholars and other staff.
  • The repository will ensure preservation of that output, and, by providing open access to metadata and where possible the actual publication/output, will increase awareness, use and impact of University of Southern Queensland output and demonstrate the quality of University of Southern Queensland research and scholarship.
  • In general, all academic staff members are required by the University to enter their current research outputs into USQ ePrints.

Additional Information

To access more information on copyright and research, see -

O'Brien, Damien S., Fitzgerald, Anne M., Fitzgerald, Brian F., Kiel-Chisholm, Scott, Coates, Jessica, Pappalardo, Kylie, & Austin, Anthony 2007, Copyright Guide for Research Students: What you need to know about copyright before depositing your electronic thesis in an online repository. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, viewed 4th February 2013,

Directory of Open Access Journals
Directory of Open Access Books
Directory of Open Access Repositories – OpenDOAR
Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG)

USQ Research Librarian, Ms Tegan Darnell, gives an insightful presentation on Open Access presentation, during Open Access Week 2013.


Australian Open Access Support Group 2013, What is open access?, Australian Open Access Support Group, viewed 18th December 2013, <>.
Australian Open Access Support Group 2013, Developments in OA Monograph Publishing, Australian Open Access Support Group, viewed 18th December 2013, <>.
Australian Open Access Support Group 2013, Open Access & Copyright, Australian Open Access Support Group, viewed 18th December 2013, < >.