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Copyright law

Academic writing means confronting issues of copyright law. Here you will find questions and answers on that matter.

What is copyright in Sweden?

Copyright is the branch of law that holds the legal provisions on the rights of writers, artists and other creative persons to determine how their literary or artistic works may be used.

For a creation to be regarded as a piece of work, it must have attained the high standard required of a work, meaning that it should display originality or individuality as a result of the originators personal making.

The originator has:

Economic rights:

the right to permit or prohibit reproduction of the work and the right to make the work available to the general public. These rights may be transferred to other persons or companies.


the right to be named in association with the work being used, to the extent and in the way required by good practice. These rights may not be transferred to other persons or companies.

Copyright and images in Sweden

I want to use images and diagrams in my thesis. I have found them online/in a book. Do I have to get permission from the creator to publish them?

This questions has a short answer: yes. If you are going to publish your thesis in BADA you must get the copyright holder's permission unless the images are marked with some other license, such as one of Creative Commons license, which allows use or the copyright time has run out. You can also choose not to publish images in your electronic edition. In this case you can instead of the images white "due to copyright law some of the images are missing in this edition."

To use images, diagrams, sketches and photographs in you thesis is a complicated question. It is not allowed to use images, diagrams, sketches or photographs. The creator of a work has always right to his/her work. You are not allowed to scan in an image from a book or a journal to use in your thesis because then you are violating the copyright holder's (both the original creator and photographer) right to his/her work.

According to copyright you may depict public artwork to use in scientific publications if they are not used in purpose to make money. This permission is valid in those cases depicting follows good practice and use can be motivated. you should not make changes to images or make a collage of them without permission because this might be against the original artist's intension. You are not allowed to go around the copyright by making you own exact copy of the work either. 

You cannot you a sketch you have made of a patented design. It is the design idea that is protected, not the physical object. The sketch is just another expression of the same design. You may use your sketch in your preparation work but do not include it in your thesis. 

You cannot use an image, diagram or photo without the permission of the copyright holder. The creator has the immaterial right to the work but the financial rights can be transferred to a publisher. You need to contact both the creator and the publisher to get a permission to use the work in your thesis. Same rules apply for images you find on Internet. The copyright holder has the same rights independent of media. If you want to use an image that you have found on Internet but cannot find information about who is the copyright holder you should refer to "unknown artist/photographer" and write in the foreword of you thesis that you have not found the copyright holder but if someone think that they have rights to any of the images should contact the author.

How long is the copyright valid for?

Copyright is in most cases valid for the originators lifetime and for 70 years after the person's death.