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Copyright Student Guide

It is important for students to beware of copyright as you will be creators and users of copyright works. You need to know how to use works appropriately to avoid plagiarism and infringing copyright.

As students you are creators of copyright works in the presentation of assignments for assessment, whether you are starting at university or completing a doctoral thesis. Generally presentation will be as literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works.  

As well as creators of copyright works you will make use of copyright works as sources when completing assessments, whether this is your first assignment or writing a thesis.

There are a number of issues you need to be aware of when completing assessments, particularly theses.

Research & writing assignments

The following three exceptions in the Copyright Act (1994) enable students to study and complete assessments, including theses without infringing or needing to request permission: research or private study; copying for educational purposes and; criticism, review, and news reporting. 

Research or private study

Section 43 of the Copyright Act allows for ‘fair dealing’ for study purposes. This section enables you to use portions of text as quotes and paraphrased ideas and opinions from sources in assignments and theses as long as they are appropriately cited and referenced regardless of where it is accessed from – book, journal article or internet. Quotes must not be ‘substantial’. See also Fair dealing.

Section 43 does not cover copying/using artistic works such as graphs, diagrams, tables, images, drawings, photographs etc, because each of these items on their own are whole works. Fair dealing does not apply to whole works, only portions of works. See artistic works.

Copying music and movies/videos or portions of these works are also not covered under this section. See Copying for educational purposes.

 Copying for educational purposes

 Copying for educational purposes is covered in Section 44 of the Copyright Act. This section permits the use of diagrams, graphs, tables etc., in a PowerPoint presentation as part of a class seminar. It does not permit the making of copies of these works in handouts.

Massey holds a number of copyright licences to enable staff and student to copy beyond what the Act permits. See the specific licences for details of what you can and can’t do.

  • Copyright Licensing Ltd
  • Screenrights licence allows you to make a clip from a television or radio broadcast, such as from movies/videos, news to include in seminar presentations or assessments presented via a digital format.

 Criticism, review, and news reporting

 Section 42(1) allows for “Fair dealing with a work for the purposes of criticism or review, of that work or another work or of a performance of a work, does not infringe copyright in the work if such fair dealing is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.”

Photographs are not covered under this section of the Act.

Artistic works

Artistic works are whole works regardless of where they come from, an article, a book or the internet. Artistic works include:  

  • diagrams
  • graphs
  • maps
  • tables
  • charts
  • photographs
  • artworks

Artistic works cannot be used in Masters and Doctoral theses without permission from the copyright owner/s.

It is permissible to utilise graphs and tables etc, with citation, in assignments for internal marking only or assignments that are not for publication.

Seeking permission

 For students writing theses permission must be sought for all whole works wanting to be used. To seek permission write an email to the right’s owner stating who you are, that you are studying at Massey University for which degree, the thesis topic and the name of the work you wish to use and how you wish to use it. Include full reference details. Keep careful records of all permissions. When attributing works granted permission to use include “Reproduced by permission of author/creator/rights holder” with the citation, or particular statement required by the granting of permission.

 For most books publishers hold copyright. Their websites usually have contact details for permissions. In books and reports published by non commercial and government agencies the copyright is usually held by the author/s, while resources on internet sites may be owned by the website or author/s and creators. Most websites have contact details. Contact publishers for the use of works in journals.

Internet resources

 All items on the internet are copyright works and are owned by rights holders, whether it is text, images, graphs or logos. You can print a copy for your personal use but are not free to distribute whole items unless the copyright owner/site has given permission.  The Terms and Conditions or Copyright sections of a web site will usually indicate how you can use resources and who to contact. Creative Commons licensed works can be copied as long as the same licence is included with the acknowledgement.

Additional resources

  • Millett, T. (2008). Copyright Guidelines for Research Students.  Prepared for LCoNZ: Library Consortium of New Zealand.  This guide provides a more in depth look at copyright for research students. The request template and suggested format for keeping a record of permission is helpful. This short document can be accessed from https://lianza.org.nz/copyright-guidelines-research-students
  • The Library’s Guide to Presentation of Theses outlines all thesis requirements.
  • Referencing styles can be found on OWLL.


Acknowledgement: The work of Tony Millett in Copyright Guidelines for Research Students (2008) referred to in the Additional resources, has informed this page.