Copyright for researchers

Your role as author

As the author of scientific publications, you own the copyright to your work. If there are several authors, you will own this copyright together with your co-authors.

Even though you are a researcher at UGent, your property rights are not automatically transferred to the institution. You do have to give consent for your work to be deposited at UGent (click on English version) and to be made available for consultation by current and future students and researchers via the University Library. Offering a work within such a closed network satisfies the exception in copyright law concerning educational and scientific research.

UGent adopts an Open Access policy to stimulate researchers to make their publications freely available to all interested parties as far as possible. The tool for this purpose is Biblio. For some projects Open Access publishing is obligatory.

Collaborations with a publisher provide the following possibilities.

  • You transfer your property rights to the publisher. Thereafter, you cannot publish your work anywhere else, e.g. on your own website, without the permission of the rights holder.
  • You licence your property rights to the publisher. Choosing a journal that makes Open Access publishing possible will in practice result in a Creative Commons licence Creative Commons-licentie. Check in the Sherpa/Romeo database whether a publisher gives permission to deposit a publication in an Open Access repository – at UGent that is Biblio.

Do bear in mind that the structure of self-developed databases may also be protected by copyright if the creator has made creative choices when ranking the content. This protection does not apply in the case of a technical or logical (e.g. alphabetical) ranking.

Databases can also fall under the database rights sui generis which applies for 15 years after completion of production.


  • The creator has made substantial investments in obtaining, checking and presenting the content. The conversion of existing content into a database is therefore not included.
  • Structured set-up of the database: all components are independently retrievable.

The rights holder is the producer of the database, who has taken the initiative and financed the database.

Research data can also fall under copyright and database rights – if they meet the criteria. Furthermore, UGent can also insist on certain intellectual property rights.

Research data of UGent researchers are research results:

  • that have not been obtained from third parties, but are generated themselves during the research process.
  • that arise from research conducted by researchers in the context of their relationship with UGent.
  • that arise from research conducted using university resources or facilities.

If the research data are valorisable (as defined by the Valorisation regulation (in Dutch)), they must be registered with the Valorisation unit (TechTransfer) for every form of communication (e.g. presentation, publication). This unit will make arrangements with the researcher as to how these research data will be handled: e.g. protection via registration or patent name, valorisation as confidential know-how.

When a third party is involved – e.g. because of external financing of the research or collaboration with a commercial company –  the intellectual property rights relating to the research data must be laid down in a written agreement before the research starts.


Using copyright-protected material

An exception to copyright is the right to cite from a work in the context of “critique, polemic, review, education or in the context of scientific activities” (Code of Economic Law, art. XI.189 § 1 WER). The source and name of the author must be mentioned.

If you use (parts of) work by other people and claim it as your own, you are committing plagiarism.

A lecturer can check your submitted work for plagiarism using the software tool Ephorus. Sanctions will be imposed on anyone caught plagiarising. For more information, read article 78 of UGent’s education and exam regulations. If you want to use a work beyond the exception made for citation, for example a photo as an illustration in your published Master thesis or an article by a third party on your own website, please take the following steps:

  • Is the work protected by copyright?
  • Is the work original? No: you are free to use it without permission.
  • Is it an official government deed? Yes: you are free to use it without permission.
  • Has the author been dead for more than 70 years? Yes: you are free to use it without permission.

Does an exception to copyright apply?

Here is an overview of exceptions (in Dutch). Examples are education and scientific research.

  • Yes: use according to the conditions of this exception.
  • No: permission required.

Ask permission from the rights holder or the management organisation (e.g. Sabam) that he or she has joined. There is usually a fee associated with this service.

  • An author can make his work available to all interested parties via a Creative Commons-licence. This is the case, for example, with articles that are published as Open Access. Separate permission is then no longer necessary.
  • If the rights holder cannot be identified after careful research, the work is a so-called orphan work. Permitted use is reproducing with the aim of digitising, making available, indexing; cataloguing, preserving or restoring; making available to the public.