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FAQ – Using Copyrighted Material in Research

Q1: Can I insert a copyrighted figure or graph into my journal articles without asking for permission?

Using a figure or graph in your journal article without seeking permission would likely amount to copyright infringement unless the amount copied amounts to a reasonable portion, or the copyright owner has already granted a licence for its use (see for example, Creative Commons licenced materials). In such a scenario, your use must comply with the terms of use specified by the copyright owner.

As a precaution, you should always try to seek the necessary copyright clearances. This also extends to reuse of copyrighted materials from your other journal articles.

Do note that in addition to the risk of copyright infringement, using a figure or graph into your journal articles without permission may also be in violation of NTU’s Academic Integrity Policy for which disciplinary action may be taken.

Q2: Can I insert copyrighted material into my conference presentation slides without asking for permission?

If the conference presentation slides which incorporate copyright material are only presented during the conference and not printed or made available to the audience, as a guide, if the amount copied is a reasonable portion, this would not amount to copyright infringement.

If the amount of copyright material reproduced exceeds that of a reasonable portion and is a substantial one, such reproduction without permission would amount to copyright infringement unless one of the defences applies.

Whether a defence may apply would depend heavily on the facts of each case. If for example, the copyright material was reproduced in the presentation slides for the purpose of criticism and review, it is possible to rely of the defence of fair dealing for criticism and review. To come within the ambit of this defence, the dealing must involve some element of evaluation or judgment made on the merits of the work. However, sufficient acknowledgment of the work must be made in order to rely on this defence.

Notwithstanding that the conference is a non-commercial, academic one, whether the general fair dealing defence would apply would depend on the facts. There is always a risk that the defence may not apply and you will need to decide, on balance, whether the copyright materials are essential to your presentation.

If the conference is an internal one, i.e. on NTU’s premises and where lectures, speeches and presentations are given or made by NTU’s staff or students in the course of the activities of NTU and limited to NTU students, their parents, siblings or guardians, the use of copyrighted materials in the presentation will not amount to a public performance.

To be safe, you should always make attempts to obtain the permission of the copyright owner. Alternatively, you may wish to insert a citation or reference to the copyright material so that the audience may refer to it on their own, instead of copying it into your presentation slides.

Q3: What if these copyrighted materials for my conference presentation will become part of a printed conference proceeding?

If your conference presentation materials which incorporate other copyright materials are printed for distribution during the conference or otherwise made available to the audience, this may amount to multiple copying and communication, and accordingly, copyright infringement.

If, however, the conference is carried out on the premises of NTU and for the purpose of a course of education provided by NTU, the defence for multiple copying and communication for educational institutions under Section 51 would apply and you will be able to copy:

  • for a work comprising not more than 500 pages, copying and communication of up to 5 pages of the work;
  • for a work of comprising more than 500 pages, copying and communication of up to 5% of the total number of pages; and
  • For a work in electronic copy and not divided into pages, copying and communication of up to 5% of the total number of bytes, words or contents.

If the conference presentation materials are printed or otherwise made available to the audience by way of multiple copying, the allowable limit of copying is generally 5% for works which contain more than 500 pages, and 5 pages for works which contain less than 500 pages.