1. Who holds ownership of the copyright to a CUHK thesis or dissertation?
Before September 2008, CUHK retained the copyright of all theses and dissertations of its postgraduate students. Any person(s) intending to use part or the whole of any thesis or dissertation submitted before September 2008 in a publication has to seek permission from the Dean of the Graduate School.
Since September 2008, the authors of theses or dissertations hold the copyright. However, to provide wider accessibility of theses or dissertations for scholastic and academic purposes, all postgraduate students have to agree to grant CUHK the worldwide irrevocable, non-exclusive rights to digitize and make their work available for scholastic and academic purposes provided that proper acknowledgment of authorship is given.
2. How do I request permission to publish all or part of my thesis or dissertation?
If your thesis or dissertation was submitted before September 2008, you should write to the Dean of the Graduate School to obtain permission to publish all or part of your thesis or dissertation in a publication.
If your thesis or dissertation was submitted after September 2008, you hold the copyright of your work and you are free to publish your work.
3. What is third-party copyright material?
Third-party copyright material is material in any format to which another person or entity holds the copyright. Examples include publications such as books or journal articles, questionnaires, computer software, images, graphics, photographs, maps, sound recordings, films, music or artistic works. It does not matter whether the item comes from a print or digital source.
4. What should I do with third-party copyright material?
If you wish to include any third-party copyright material in your thesis or dissertation that does not fall under the ‘fair dealing’ exemption in the Copyright Ordinance, you need to seek copyright permission from the copyright holder and include a statement at the appropriate part in the thesis or dissertation such as “Permission to reproduce this ... has been granted by..."
If permission is not granted, you may consider removing the third-party copyright material from your thesis or dissertation and replacing it with a statement such as "this image has been removed by the author for copyright reasons". A bibliographic reference may be placed here to refer readers to the original source.
Students are encouraged to seek permission to use copyrighted material in their theses and dissertations at the time of conducting research and writing the thesis. It is also a good academic practice to seek permission for use of third-party copyright materials in anticipation of future publication of theses or dissertations.
If any thesis or dissertation is reported to have any unauthorized third-party copyright material, we will apply the take down policy.
5. Under what circumstances am I exempted to seek copyright permission of third-party copyright material?
The Copyright Ordinance of Hong Kong protects the expression of ideas in an original work created by its author including copyright works made available on the Internet. But certain acts under the Ordinance are permissible and do not constitute an infringement of copyrights. For instance, the Ordinance allows fair dealing in any type of copyright work for the purpose of research or private study. 'Fair dealing' can include copying or any other of the restricted acts in copyright (e.g. performance, recording, adapting). To decide whether an act is 'fair dealing' the law requires you to consider:
a) the purpose and nature of the dealing, including whether the dealing is for a non-profit-making purpose and whether the dealing is of a commercial nature;
b) the nature of the work;
c) the amount and substantiality of the portion dealt with in relation to the work as a whole; and
d) the effect of the dealing on the potential market for or value of the work.
For details, please refer to the following documents:
• Copyright Ordinance: Fair dealing for purposes of giving or receiving instruction
• Copyright in Education in Hong Kong; and
• Hong Kong's Amended Copyright Law: a Guide for Teachers and Students
With regard to the above, a student copying a “reasonable amount” of any third-party copyright material and incorporating it in his or her dissertation for education purposes with proper acknowledgement of the source of the work would be considered “fair”. Therefore, if only a small portion from other works is used for supporting your argument, or if the material is available in the public domain, and as long as there is proper referencing, there is no copyright infringement both for the purpose of examination and for subsequent publication of the thesis or dissertation in print or online
If a substantial part of a work is used, it is still allowable in a print thesis for the purpose of examination. However, it would NOT be considered "fair use" if the work is published in print such as in a journal or book or online like in the ETD collection. In this case, it is the responsibility of the author of the thesis or dissertation to seek permission from the copyright holders.
6. How can I enhance my understanding of Hong Kong’s Intellectual Property and Copyright Law?
The Graduate School organizes the Improving Postgraduate Learning (IPL) programme to help postgraduate students to do research. One of the online modules is titled “Observing Intellectual Property and Copyright Law during Research “ and compulsory for all research students.
Please also refer to copyright information relating to education compiled by the Intellectual Property Department of Hong Kong.
7. Can I restrict access to my thesis or dissertation?
A one-year “restricted access” is granted automatically to the final version of all theses and dissertations submitted by postgraduate students. Access to the abstract, table of contents and full text of the theses and dissertations will be blocked during this one-year period. After this one-year period, theses and dissertations will be open for public access unless approval from the Graduate Council Executive Committee is granted for keeping a thesis or dissertation confidential.