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Guides & Tutorial, Pao-yue Kong Library, The Polytechnic University of Hong Kong

Researchers@Library: Reuse Copyrighted Materials

This guide serves as a one-stop shop for PolyU researchers and postgraduate students to gain easy access to information pertinent to their research and publishing needs.


2 - Doing Research Project

 Reuse Copyrighted Materials

  • What are IP & Copyright
  • Ask for Permissions to Reuse Copyrighted Materials from Publishers
  • List of Permission Guidelines from Publishers

 Citation and Avoid Plagiarism

 Reference Management Tools

Related Books

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In Person   Research Help Desk, 3/F, 
        Pao Yue-kong Library

Reuse Copyrighted Materials

Intellectual Property (IP) refers to "intangible property that is the result of creativity", such as trademarks, patents, copyrights, etc. In Hong Kong, a body of intellectual property laws have been developed by Intellectual Property Department (IPD) to protect creativity of different types of properties. In PolyU, Innovation and Technology Development Office (ITDO) is the key body that manages and protects the University’s intellectual property portfolio. 

Copyright is a legal right given to the owner of an original creative work. It grants the copyright owner (with a limited number of years) a set of exclusive rights, including:

  1. reproduce the work, in whole or in part; 
  2. distribute copies of the work; 
  3. publicly display the work; and
  4. prepare derivative works based on the original, such as translations or adaptations.

Under Hong Kong's Copyright Law, it is not necessary to register a copyright in Hong Kong - works are protected by copyright automatically at the time of their creation. Copyright can be assigned or transferred to another party, e.g. the author can transfer the copyright to the publisher.

The University considers the protection of intellectual property (including copyright) a serious matter. Copying of copyrighted materials, without the license of copyright owner, may be regarded as a statutory offense. Inclusion of copyrighted materials in research work, if not considered as fair dealing, will require prior permission from the copyright owner. See an example at Ask for Permissions from Publishers.

► What is permission and why do I need it?


Obtaining copyright permission is the process of getting consent from a copyright owner to use the owner’s creative material. Obtaining permission is often called “licensing”; when you have permission, you have a license to use the work.

Permission is often (but not always) required because of intellectual property laws that protect creative works such as text, artwork, or music. If you use a copyrighted work without the appropriate permission, you may be violating—or “infringing”— the owner’s rights to that work. Infringing someone else’s copyright may subject you to legal action.

Source: Stim, R. (2004). Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Nolo.

► Do I need to pay for a permission?

The copyright owner (e.g., the publisher, or the author) does not always charge when granting a permission. For example, to reuse a part from a publication in your own research work usually costs zero as reflected on the permission document issued at the end of the application process. Always check with the copyright owner whether a permission is needed. Permission guidelines from major publishers can be viewed at List of Permission Guidelines from Publishers.

Contact us if you need assistance from a librarian.


To ask for permission from publishers used to be a complicated and time-consuming issue. Nowadays, the process has been dramatically simplified with the help of online permission services, such as RightsLink® from Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). Many major publishers have partnered with CCC and integrated their platforms with RightsLink. This means that you could request a permission directly from publisher's site by filling out a simple form.

Below is an example of how to request for permission to reuse part of a journal article from ScienceDirect (Elsevier). To see guidelines from other publishers, go to "List of Permission Guidelines from Publishers" tab.

1. Locate the article from the database or journal, and click on "Get rights and content". In other databases, it can be "Request permissions", or "Reprints & Permissions".

RightsLink_get permission from Science Direct

2. The RightsLink page will then be launched. Click on "Make a selection" to choose how you wish to reuse this article.

RightsLink_get permission from Science Direct

3. Fill out the form and click on "Quick Check" to check the price. In most cases, to reuse a part of the article (e.g., text, figures, tables) in a new research work (e.g., journal article, book, thesis) is free of charge.

RightsLink_get permission from Science Direct

4. Click "Continue" and create an account on CCC if you have not done so. After signing in, you will be asked to provide some details about your research work, e.g., your name and contact information, article title, journal and the publisher you plan to submit your work to.

5. Finally you will arrive at this page - an e-version agreement that consists of your license details and the terms and conditions provided by the publisher and CCC. With this agreement, you are now free to reuse part of this article in your research work. Note that you may be required to submit this agreement along with your article submission.

RightsLink_get permission from Science Direct

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