Student copyright guide , Aratohu manatā tauira

Learn what material you're allowed to copy, share online and use in your assignments, and how to get permission to use images in your thesis.

What copyright means

Copyright is the right to control who makes copies of a piece of work. It's the law that protects people's work from being stolen, or used in a way the copyright owner wouldn't want.

In general, only the person who owns the copyright to a work can make copies of it to share with others. A copy might be a scan, photocopy, download or recording – or even a picture you take on your phone.

As a student at Massey, you'll use and create lots of works that are covered by copyright:

  • your teachers' lectures, lecture recordings, notes and handouts
  • academic books and journal articles
  • images, including photographs, drawings, graphs, maps or diagrams
  • most material you find on the internet
  • works of art like films and music
  • your academic work.

How long copyright lasts

Copyright doesn't last forever – it runs out after a certain number of years. In New Zealand, copyright lasts for 50 years after the author's death.

There are some exceptions to copyright law that make studying easier.

Copying material to read and study

You might want to photocopy or scan parts of books or academic articles so you can read them at home in your own time. You’re allowed to do this, as long as you:

  • only make one copy
  • don’t share it with anyone, or post it on the internet
  • copy only as much as you need for your study or research.

Sharing work online

Some students find it helpful to discuss their university work with others online. This is a great idea – but take care not to share any copyrighted material.

It’s against the law to post any of these works online if they're protected by copyright:

  • recordings of your university lectures
  • notes, presentations or handouts from your courses at Massey
  • resources you’ve downloaded through the Massey library, like ebooks or articles from JSTOR and other electronic collections.

Quoting or summarising other people’s work

You can quote from or paraphrase other people's work in your assignments and coursework, as long as you reference properly. Using someone else's ideas isn't a breach of copyright – but if you don't acknowledge them, it's plagiarism.

Learn about academic referencing on OWLL

Using images in a master’s or PhD thesis

Because your thesis will be published on Massey Research Online after it’s finished, you need to get permission to include any images that are protected by copyright. This includes photographs, drawings, diagrams, graphs and maps.

Search for Massey theses online

Because copyright doesn't last forever, you can use certain historical images without getting permission.

Some people license their copyrighted work so that others can use and share it without getting permission. Creative Commons is a project that lets people do this. If you use Creative Commons images in your thesis, you won’t need permission – but you will need to follow the instructions in the license.

Find Creative Commons and copyright-free New Zealand images and artworks at DigitalNZ

Search for images you can use without getting permission with Creative Commons

Asking for permission to use an image in your thesis

It can take time to get permission to use an image, so make sure to do it as soon as possible – and well before you hand your thesis in.

Write an email to the person or company who owns the copyright. The email should say:

  • who you are
  • the degree you’re studying for at Massey
  • your thesis topic
  • the name of the image you want to use
  • a full reference to the work it appears in, including its page number
  • how you want to use it.

Who to ask for permission

Who you need to contact for permission depends on where the image you want to use is from.

  • If the image is in a book or journal, you need permission from the publisher. Publishers’ websites usually have contact details for permissions.
  • If the image is from a book or report published by a government agency or charity, its owner is usually the author. Ask the publisher to give you their details.
  • If you want to use an image from a website, you need to ask the website owner for permission to use it. You can find contact details on most websites.

Finding images online

When you download an image from the web, make sure you keep full details of the website address.

If you use image sharing sites, make sure they're reputable. Creative Commons licences are your best guarantee.

Showing you have permission to use an image in your thesis

It’s important to keep careful records of your permissions.

When you use an image in your thesis, you need to acknowledge the permission in your reference. To do this, at the end of the citation write “Reproduced by permission of" and then the author, creator or copyright holder's name.

Other restrictions on copying and using images

Copyright isn't the only thing you need to think about when using images. There are some other things you may also need to consider:

  • Privacy. If an image shows a person who could be identified, you need their permission to publish it, as well as the permission of the copyright owner.
  • Cultural permissions. If an image shows Māori or Pacific people, taonga, buildings or carvings, you need to get permission to use it.
  • Academic integrity. Make sure all the work you hand in to us is yours, and you haven't presented someone else's image or artwork as your own.

Read our guide to academic integrity

Contact a librarian to find out more about cultural permissions