Copyright issues related to theses

In accordance with the Copyright Act a thesis is a literary or artistic work whose copyright is owned by its author. This means that the copyright owner has the exclusive right to control a work by reproducing it and by making it available to the public (1 §2 §).

When copies of a work are made or when the work is made available to the public in whole or in part, the name of the author shall be stated in a manner required by proper usage. A work may not be altered in a manner which is prejudicial to the author's literary or artistic reputation, or to his individuality; nor may it be made available to the public in such a form or context as to prejudice the author in the manner stated (3 §).

Public availability of theses

A thesis written by a student to complete a degree is a public document. All activities at the university are governed by the Act on the Openness of Government Activities, and also the public availability of theses is based on this legislation. The public availability of a thesis means that the university must present the thesis to anyone upon request.

The Act also defines what kind of official documents are secret. Such are for example documents that contain information on business or professional secrets and documents that contain the basic materials for a dissertation or other scientific study, or the assessment of the same. In  theses the secret information should only be included in the background material.

According to the guidelines published by the Ministry of Education and Culture (2/500/2004) universities and universities of applied sciences must ensure that theses do not contain secret material, and that they are available to the public immediately after their approval.

FAQ - Copyright issues and publicity

I want to use an image in my thesis and I need to ask permission for use. How can I request permission?

You can usually begin requesting a permission by contacting the publisher.

Most publishers offer a service with which you can request a permission and it is granted immediately, for example RightsLink. If such a service is available, you are advised to use it. For online images with no copyright information available contact the webmaster in question.

If I submit my thesis electronically, will I still hold copyright to it or is it transferred to the university?

When an author submits a thesis electronically its copyright is not transferred to the university; the author remains the copyright holder.

On the other hand, the author of the thesis is responsible for the content and rights of the publication. The author of the publication must have a full copyright or a copy of his / her thesis, or an image, table or other material that is included in his / her thesis, or has a web publishing right to such material. More information about pictures and citations as part of the thesis can be found in the subpages of this guide.

How can I read theses whose availability is restricted?

The thesis which public availability the student has chosen to restrict can be read on OuluREPO workstations at Oulu University Library. The use of the workstations and the material are governed by the Copyright Act, meaning that the content cannot be copied digitally, saved on a storage medium or sent by email. The workstations cannot be accessed through the off-campus access service.

What to do with a thesis that is to be published as an article?

If either an article has been submitted into the manuscript evaluation process or an article that the student intends to offer for publication in an as yet undefined publication is accepted as a thesis, the student submits the entire thesis to Laturi-system and is advised to restrict its public availability to the OuluREPO workstations at Oulu University Library.

What if my thesis contains trade secrets?

The actual thesis should not contain trade or professional secrets; they can only be included in the background material.  If confidential or secret information is used in a thesis, the student must agree on the use of these materials in advance with the supervisor and, in the case of a commissioned thesis, with the party that commissioned the thesis.