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About copyright

If you create something, you have the exclusive right to decide how it may be used. If you want to use other people's material, you need to know whether you are allowed to further develop or redistribute it. The Swedish Copyright Act SFS 1960:729 protects, among other things, literary works, images, photographs, music but also computer programs and translations. For a something to be protected by copyright law, it must be unique and different from other similar works. The legal term is threshold of orgininality. You do not need to apply for copyright, but you receive it automatically when the work is created. The symbol © and the word copyright, which is often used, only aims to make it clear that a work is protected by copyright. In other words, the work is still copyright protected even if it is not indicated. Copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator.

Swedish copyright law consists of two parts: the economic rights and the moral rights.

The economic right (right of disposal) gives the author the exclusive right to make economic use of the work by performing, showing, copying, selling or renting it out. The economic right can be transferred to another party such as a publisher.

The moral right means that the author always has the right to be mentioned when the work is used. In the academic world, it is usually the publishers who have the financial rights, they own the text but also the images and figures that appear in scientific articles and books. So when you want to use an image, you have to ask permission from the publisher. But the author retains the moral right and must therefore be mentioned in citations.

Restrictions on copyright

The right to cite and quote from a published work is permitted thanks to a restriction in the Copyright Act. Remember to always cite the source. A quote must also be well-motivated and if there is reason to use much of someone else's text, it is good practice to ask for permission. The right to quote means that only short passages of a work may be quoted and does not include images as these are considered its own creation.

Pictures and images

The right to reproduce an image (picture, figure, graph, table, etc.) in your work may infringe on someone else's copyright and we always recommend that you ask the copyright holder for permission. For images and figures you found on the internet, it is easiest to contact the copyright holder directly, and for images from course books contact the publishers. For US publishers, it is easiest to use the Copyright Clearance Center. See more under the tab Ask for permission. Exceptions are of course images that are clearly marked with Creative Commons licenses or if otherwise stated.

Other important agreements

Copy Agreement for Universities and Colleges for Teaching Purposes: Bonus Copyright Access.

Chalmers library's agreement with suppliers of electronic journals and books on how much teachers and students are allowed to copy and print:

  • Britannica image quest - Image database with photos and drawings in all subject areas. The images may be downloaded and used in non-commercial presentations, essays and theses. (NOTE! Requires CID login)
  • CC Search - Creative Commons has collected a number of websites where you can search for free image, sound and video material. Always double check that the material you want to use has a CC license.
  • Flickr - A web service for uploading images and opinions. Always double check that the material you want to use has a CC license.
  • Google Advanced Image Search - Google's advanced image search engine. You can limit to size, color, file format, etc.
  • Pixabay - Image database with free images, illustrations and videos. Most of it is free to use, but sometimes some images appear from Shutterstock that cost money.
  • Wikimedia Commons - Free media material (images, audio and video). Just like Wikipedia, anyone is free to edit the material.

Ask for permission

  • Write to the copyright holder and ask for permission. Save the email!
  • Images from course literature: Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), or email:

Below is a suggested letter template that you can use when requesting permission. Remember to have a pleasant and professional tone and to use your student email to show your connection to Chalmers. Remember to always indicate how and where your work is intended to be published.