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Use of quotations in master's theses

In accordance with the Copyright Act a work made public may be quoted, in accordance with proper usage to the extent necessary for the purpose (Section 22). Proper usage means here that the quotation is used in a suitable manner, in aid of one's own creative work and for example to illustrate an issue.

The allowable extent and manner of use of quotations are determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the type of publication. Quotations may not be utilized as parts of a new publication nor used out of context.

In accordance with Section 11, Paragraph 2 of the Copyright Act, the author's name and the source must be indicated to the extent and in a manner required by proper usage. For master's theses the citation style and referencing of sources are also regulated by possible subject-specific guidelines.

Quotation right is not limited to certain types of work or techniques.


Using a work of art or a photograph as a quotation in a master's thesis

The Copyright Council has in its opinion 2002:16 stated that the attitude towards the use of a whole photograph as a quotation on the basis of the provision on quotation right (Section 22) may be reserved.

However, works of art made public and permanently placed at a public place may be reproduced in pictorial form with the text in a critical or scientific presentation (Section 25), when the picture has a material connection with the text and it is used to illustrate or clarify the text.

Photographs taken by others may not be used in a master's thesis without permission (Section 1, Section 49a).

Use of quotations in master's theses FAQ

What is the maximum allowable quotation length? Can for example a whole paragraph or poem be quoted in a master's thesis?

The allowable extent of quotations is determined on a case-by-case basis. If the other conditions provided by quotation right are fulfilled, i.e. the quoted work has been mentioned and the quotation is in accordance with proper usage (author's name and source are mentioned, the quotation is not used for advertising or marketing purposes, the quoted work has a material connection with the text it is included in), the purpose of the quotation determines its extent. The quotation must depict the original work truthfully, which is why too short quotations can be misleading and thus against proper usage.

Whole poems are considered literary works and quoting them in full does not fulfill the provision on quotation right.

On the other hand, a part of a published poem may be quoted when the part is connected with the context and its extent is suitable. Information about the source must be included in this case, as well.

If the maker of a work has been dead for more than 70 years, the copyright is no longer valid. For translated literature the copyright of the translator must also be acknowledged. In the case translations of sufficient originality, the translator holds the same copyright as the author of the original work.