Theses

Writing your BSc, MSc or PhD-thesis?

Not sure if you may use this brilliant photo in your thesis? Or who owns the copyright on your thesis or the data? On this page you find answers on these and other theses related copyright questions.

I found a picture on the internet, how can I rightfully use it in my thesis?

In general, you can consider everything that has a creative aspect in it (e.g. a picture, a cartoon, a drawing, a photograph, an infographic etc.) as copyright protected, even if this picture is freely available on the internet. Pictures found on the internet are generally also copyright protected. This means that if there is no applicable statutory limitation, you need to ask for permission to the copyright owner see question: What is copyright and what is protected? on the page General Information. One of the statutory limitations is the right to cite. You may use small parts of the work without approval as long as you do this to illustrate a proposition, to defend and opinion, or to criticize or review another’s work. In order words, using the picture without asking for permission is only allowed when the picture adds something to your work. If you want to use the picture for decoration (e.g. on the front cover), you do need to ask permission to do so to the copyright owner see question: How do I cite and reference correctly on the page Citing & plagiarism.

Tip: find a picture with a license (e.g. a Creative Commons License), that allows you to use this picture in your work without permission see question: What is a Creative Commons License? on the page Ownership & licenses. Find more information on finding pictures with a license on this page.

Who owns the copyright on a MSc/BSc thesis?

The student owns copyright to his/her MSc/BSc thesis. The student who creates his/her MSc/BSc thesis (i.e., who writes the thesis and in that process makes the creative choices leading to the final wording of the thesis) owns the copyright on the work. Accordingly, copyright in the thesis is vested in the student who creates the thesis. This also applies to other student work products (essays, papers, reports, etc.). See Student Charter for more information.

In some cases, a thesis is fully or partially created in the course of a commissioned study assignment or in the course of an internship. In that case, the student may agree upon an alternative ownership. If no agreement is reached, the student owns the copyright on the thesis. Moreover, if no agreement is reached, the thesis research, in some cases, cannot take place (see Open Access Thesis Policy). For advice regarding such contractual arrangements, the student may contact the legal department of the science group where they study. 

Who owns the copyright on a PhD thesis?

The PhD candidate owns the copyright on his/her PhD thesis, unless this has been fully or partially transferred to a commissioner, an employer or a publisher. The PhD candidate who creates his/her PhD thesis (i.e., who writes the thesis and in that process makes the creative choices leading to the final wording of the thesis) owns the copyright on the work. As such, copyright in the thesis is vested in the PhD candidate who creates the thesis. In some cases, the PhD candidate is requested to transfer copyright to the commissioner of a PhD research project or to a publisher in the case of scientific publications. For advice regarding such contractual arrangements, the PhD candidate may contact the legal department of the science group where they conduct their research.

Who owns the copyright on a co-authored chapter of my thesis?

See Ownership & Licenses, “Who owns copyright on works that are created with others?” and “What is joint ownership?”

I am a PhD-candidate and an employee of WUR, who owns the copyright on my research data?

WUR owns copyright on protected datasets created by its employees. 

Unstructured, ‘raw’ datasets (e.g., databases filled with factual measurement data) are not subject to ownership and therefore not protected by copyright. If creative choices are made in selecting materials in the dataset and/or in structuring the dataset, all or part of the dataset may be subject to copyright protection. Since works created in connection with employment are owned by the employer, copyright pertaining to protected research data generated by WUR and its employees is vested in WUR. Please note that WUR’s Research Data Policy requires employed researchers includes to treat all research data as “confidential”, until an explicit exception is made.

For further information, see Research Data.

I am a PhD-candidate but not an employee of WUR, who owns the copyright on my research data?

If you are not an employee of WUR, WUR does not own copyright on the (protected) research data you create during your PhD research. If you are hired by an external organization as a PhD-candidate, you should first check the arrangements you have made with the organization that hired you. If no arrangements are made, you are in principle the owner of any copyright protected datasets.

Unstructured, ‘raw’ datasets (e.g., databases filled with factual measurement data) are not subject to ownership and therefore not protected by copyright. If creative choices are made in selecting materials in the dataset and/or in structuring the dataset, all or part of the dataset may be subject to copyright protection. Since works created in connection with employment are owned by the employer, copyright pertaining to protected research data generated by WUR and its employees is vested in WUR.

Do I need to take copyright law into account when sharing the dataset of my MSc thesis?

If applicable, WUR students own the copyright of a dataset that they created during the MSc thesis project. However, most data are factual, and factual data have no copyright protection. In many cases, WUR or another organisation provide a dataset to the student. In this situation, the data could be/are owned by WUR and/or another organisation. If the data has restricted use, (e.g. the data cannot be used by another university or shared with others), these restrictions should be stated in the thesis agreement and the agreement should be signed by the student. WUR has developed policies about publishing and sharing data. On the WDCC Data Management website, you find mre information about Research Data Management and how to publish a dataset.

After publishing my PhD-thesis, am I allowed to publish a chapter as a journal article?

If you submit manuscripts (chapters of your PhD-thesis) to a journal after your thesis has been submitted and made publicly available through Wageningen University & Research PhD theses, you may receive an e-mail from the publisher that your manuscript cannot be accepted because of plagiarism. To prevent this, you need to place an embargo on your thesis. Please email media.library@wur.nl to request an embargo before you submit your thesis. During the 1-year embargo, your thesis will not be available online and will not appear in plagiarism-detection software. You may also extend the embargo if needed.

After publishing a journal article, is it possible to include this article in my PhD-thesis?

During the paper submission process, you may be asked to transfer your copyright to the publisher. If you must transfer all your rights, it is important to retain the right to publish this article as a chapter in your PhD thesis or the right to use this article in education. If you did not arrange this with the journal during the paper submission process, it will  depend on the journal if you may publish the article as a thesis chapter. Please check the publisher’s copyright statement or the contract you have signed to see if you may publish the paper in your thesis. In some cases, you may publish the paper’s post print or pre-print version in your thesis. On the SHERPA/RoMEO website, you can check if you may publish the paper in your PhD thesis.

Last updated on 15/04/2020.