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The Education exception and past PhD theses

By Chris J Holland, on 23 April 2019

A recent enquiry concerned the use of a past thesis in a writing workshop where students of a specific course would have the opportunity to examine and also to critique the writing style of that thesis, which would be studied as a relevant example. The question was whether it would be acceptable to copy the thesis in its entirety for the purpose of the workshop.

It seems very likely that this re-use of a thesis would be “fair dealing” in terms of the education (or “illustration for instruction”) exception which can be found in Section 32 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). Naturally this would only be “fair dealing” to the extent that the copies were used strictly for the task in hand and not for any additional purpose beyond the scope of Section 32. The context also needs to be “non-commercial” so something like  a fee-charging CPD course would probably not be covered.

In addition Section 32 does not specify that the work must have been  “…made available to the public” as does the exception for criticism, review, quotation and news reporting (Section 30, CDPA) for example. So that question does not arise in relation to the thesis.

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