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Copyright Guidelines for Staff & Students of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (WITS): Material included in theses/dissertations

This LibGuide provides definitions, legislation and procedures for copyright clearance for teaching and research purposes.

Copyright Clearances

N.B.  If a number of images, extracts or other copyright items is taken from a single publisher and included in a thesis or dissertation, then the student would need to apply for copyright permission directly from the rights-holder, before including them in his/her thesis or dissertation.  However, if only one image is used from each publisher, then this would fall under 'Fair Dealing'.  The student would not have to apply for copyright permission, but would need to acknowledge properly.  It may be wise to add the following under the image or figure used "This item is copied in terms of Fair Dealing in Section 12 of the current Copyright Act"


The majority of Wits theses/dissertations (there are exceptions where the work constitutes less than 50% of the research programme) are placed on an open access institutional repository, WIReDSpace, which is accessible by anyone using the Internet. Including copyright material beyond fair dealing in theses/dissertations, without permission would be copyright infringement.


Postgraduate students must be sure that where necessary, permission for copyright material in their theses/dissertations is obtained from the rightsholder(s) before submission for examination.  Written permissions must be submitted with their theses/dissertations. 


To avoid having to get copyright clearance, consider using your own material or material which is available on open access under a Creative Commons licence or other open source licences, or from the Directory of Open Access Journals and Directory of Open Access Books.For examples of open access material, see Wits LibGuide on Open Access, A2K & Scholarly Communication and Wits Libguide on Open Educational Resources (OERs)  

Considerations when using copyright material

In the print environment, using other people's works in theses and dissertations was regarded as 'Fair Dealing' since the work was not published and there were generally only 3 or 4 copies available in a university archive or library. In the digital environment, it is more complicated as theses and dissertations are placed on the institutional repository, WIReDSpace, and are essentially 'published' to the world. 


It is therefore necessary to obtain copyright permission from the rightsowner, beyond fair dealing. 


It is the responsibility of the researcher/student to apply for copyright clearance for copyright material included in theses or dissertations, and not that of the Wits Scholarly Communications and Copyright Services Office or the Wits Legal Office. However, you may seek advice in this regard from either of the aforementioned offices. Written copyright clearances must be obtained before submitting your thesis or dissertation to the University, and should be submitted with the final report for examination. 


N.B. Copyright clearance can take a long time and even cost money. Fax or email publishers, where possible.


No thesis or dissertation will be placed on WIReDSpace (ETD) web page, without simultaneous presentation of the original signed letter of copyright permission and Student’s Declaration Form, duly signed.