Ida Blekeli and her Master's thesis at Media Lab       Master's Thesis works by students of Media Lab
Photo: Pipsa Asiala                                                Works: Anna Salmi, Abhigyan Singh, Diana De Sousa, Daniel Suominen
                                                                             Photo: Anna Keune


During their studies, students in creative disciplines create exercises and diploma works as part of the curriculum, which are closely linked with their future profession. Such works have been protected by copyright on the same grounds as any other works in creative industries. In other words, the work must display the author's independent and original creative input.


Overview of Copyright Requirements

The quotation has its roots in the Latin word for 'cito', meaning appealing to something. It can be used to illustrate issues and to justify one's own opinions in a consistent manner.

According to § 22 of the Copyright Act, it is permissible to quote from disseminated works to the extent required by the specific purpose and in accordance with fair practice [1]. A work is considered disseminated when it has been made available to the public with the author's permission. The manner, in which the work is made public, is not significant. 

The fair practice of quoting has been considered to require using the quotation to aid intellectual creative work. Thus, quotations must be appropriately connected to the work of the quoting party. In addition, there must be a justifiable reason for using a quote in the context it is presented in. Acceptable use of quotations includes, among other things, providing support for your own thoughts and views and quoting for illustrative purposes. [2]

According to the Copyright Act, the author's name and the source must be stated to the extent and in the manner required by fair practice. This principle must be adhered to when using a work on the basis of the provisions on quotations. [3] In practice, the manner of citing sources varies from field to field.

The maximum or minimum length of quotation has not been precisely defined. In principle, it is possible to violate the copyright holder's exclusive rights with both, too long and too short quotations. In most cases, however, the problem is a quotation that is too long. A work can never consist of quotations alone; in this case permission would be required from the authors of all the copyrighted works. Similarly, it is not permissible to quote an entire work.  The quotation must always have a relevant connection to the work of the person quoting, i.e. facilitate that person in their own creative work. The extent of permissible quotation may vary depending on the discipline in question. Scientific journals may need to use long quotations in critiquing and commenting other authors' works and in justifying their own opinions. Ultimately, the extent of permissible quotation is determined by the purpose, aims and context of its use.


Joined and Collaborative Works

A work is a joint work if it is created by a group or otherwise by more than one person so that the authors' contributions are inseparable. In that case the work can only be exploited after obtaining permission from all the authors. For example, the Copyright Council's opinion 1988:2 discussed a video that a group of university students had created as their diploma work. The Council considered that the work was protected by the Copyright Act and that the students jointly held copyright to the work. The university was not considered the producer of the work only on the basis that it had provided the funding. [1]

A work is a collective work if it is created by more than one person and the authors' contributions can be separated. In that case the author of each part separately controls the exploitation of that part.


TV'oke a joined Master Thesis production                                      Master Thesis books of Viara Gentchev and Tuomas Karhu
Graphic: Viara Gentchev and Tuomas Karhu                                  Photo: Anna Keune


Rights of Teachers and Tutors

Teachers and tutors of exercises and diploma works can play a significant role in the creation of the work. According to the Copyright Council's opinion TN 2003:9, copyright can be created to a tutor with independent and creative contribution that is visible in the finished product. [2] If the contribution of the tutor or some other person participating in the creation of the work is independent and creative to the extent that it can be recognized on the finished work, that contribution is protected by copyright. In that case the work constitutes either a joint work or a collective work, depending on the circumstances.

However, as a rule teachers are not granted copyright to works by students. Often the teacher's or tutor's contribution is only pedagogical or advisory, and the copyright is created to the student only. Teacher's copyright is conceivable only, for example, in case of a close group work setting where the teacher can be considered a member of the group. Even then the teacher would hold copyright to his own part of the group work only.


With respect to copyright, a diploma or exercise work becomes disseminated when it is submitted for review. This means that the Copyright Act's derogating provisions relating to disseminated works – such as the provisions on quotations and private use – apply to the work.

A diploma work that is submitted for review becomes public also in the meaning of the Act on the Openness of Government Activities. According to the Act on the Openness of Government Activities, any document submitted to the authorities becomes public and everyone has the right of access to it. [3] The objective and appropriate appraisal of diploma works also requires that they are public. Therefore, business secrets and descriptions of patentable inventions should never be included in a diploma work. On the other hand, they can be included in the diploma work's reference material that is not subject to evaluation, and thus, will not be public.

Articles in PhD thesis

To get permission to publish an article already published, as part of PhD thesis, it may be necessary, depending on the publishing agreement, to receive permission from the publisher, to whom you as a researcher have transferred ownership or exclusive license to the work published as an article. The following letter can be used for this purpose.

Dear  xxxe,

In Finland a PhD-thesis most often consists of an overview (about 30-50 pages long) and several articles published in scientific journals (at the U University usually six articles).

In my PhD-thesis the article published by P  is:


I am cordially requesting your permission to include the article (above) in the printed version (about xx prints) of my thesis and also exhibit them in the internet as PDF-files on the www-page of our university library (www. xxxx) and store them on the university server as part of my electronic thesis. I want to emphasize that the U University dissertation series does not have commercial purposes.

Please find below my contact information. I remain looking forward to your favourable reply which would enable me to comply with my university’s requirements for receiving a PhD degree.

Yours sincerely


Contact information:

  U University  Finland

Notes and References

[1] Copyright Council's opinion 1988:2 (BOOK)

[2] Copyright Council's opinion TN 2003:9

[3] The Act on the Openness of Government Activities