Copyright for students
Your role as author
As the author of a Master thesis, you own the copyright on your work. If there are several authors, you will own the copyright together with your co-authors.
Even though you are a student at UGent, your property rights are not automatically transferred to the institution. You must however agree to your work being deposited at UGent and being consulted by current and future students and researchers via the University Library. Offering a work within such a closed network satisfies the exception in the law about copyright concerning educational and scientific research.
If you have signed a confidentiality agreement for your Master thesis – because of a research contract with a company or in order to preserve the option for UGent to submit an invention registration (more info at TechTransfer) – then in many cases your work is not immediately available via the University Library. The embargo when collaborating with a company is usually 10 years. This period can be negotiated with the promoter and those involved. The final stage of making the Master thesis public is an important objective for UGent. This is achieved by prioritising patent protection of valorisable results and by imposing an embargo on public communication that is no longer than strictly necessary.
If – were necessary at the end of the embargo period – you decide to engage a publisher to publish your Master thesis, the following two options are most common:
- 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.
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. The punishment for this is civil or criminal prosecution.
If you want to use a work beyond the exception of citation, e.g. to include a photo in your article, 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?
You can consult an overview of exceptions here (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 other 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.