Research and copyright

Copyright Law

A work produced in Switzerland is automatically protected by the Swiss Copyright Law, which exhaustively regulates the exceptions in favour of the users of the works, including the right of quotation, the right of private copying, the exception for teaching purposes as well as the duration of copyright.

Citation, reuse and TDM

These rules are universally valid in scientific and academic environments and are mandatory. EPFL Directive Lex 1.3.3 sets out the rules concerning the use of sources and citation. Detailed information regarding citation can be found here.

In the case of images or entire works (an entire article, for example), it is no longer a question of citation, but of reuse. This requires the permission of the author or the rightful owner (often the publisher) of the work. This is, for example, the case of the theses made of a compilation of published articles.

The European Union and some countries have integrated an exception in favour of the scientific practice of Text and Data Mining (TDM) into their copyright law . Switzerland recently introduced an exception into the legislation (art. 24d) on April 1st, 2020. However, this exception alone often does not allow TDM, as the licenses signed by the Library for access to electronic resources may prohibit it (see the terms of use for EPFL Library’s electronic resources). In this case, a new agreement may be necessary. 

Thesis and Copyright

It is very common to reuse published (or unpublished) content in a thesis (e.g. in the case of the theses made of a compilation of published articles). It is therefore important to ensure that the use (or reuse) is possible and to ask for authorizations from the right owners when necessary. This guide provides information on how to reuse other content while respecting the rules of copyright.

Author and publisher

In the frame of traditional publications (subscription-based journals), the author signs a contract with the publisher. This contract may involve a total or partial transfer of copyright and may also be governed by a foreign law. The author is entitled to negotiate clauses in order to retain certain rights over his publication (especially the re-use rights).

In order to help authors in this negotiation, EPFL provides an amendment to the copyright agreement that can added to the publication copyright or to be submitted directly to the editor in charge of the publication. The instructions for use can be found here. There are two variants: the first requesting the permission to deposit the postprint version of the publication in Infoscience no later than 6 months after the date of publication; and the second that also adds the right to reuse the publication in an academic context. Other amendments exist, such as that of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) or that of the European Commission’s H2020 program.

Even if the publisher refuses to consider the amendment, it is still possible to negotiate other clauses in the contract (Fastguide #4).

Open licenses

In the context of Open Access publications or free distribution, the author retains his rights, but the question of which license to apply to the publication arises. Creative Commons licenses allow the author to decide what rights (s)he wants to grant users of the publication (Fastguide #3).

In the field of software, some of them are under free licenses allowing users to study and modify it. The Free Software Foundation offers a list of existing free licenses.

Do not hesitate to contact the Library for any help on these issues (reading contracts, requesting permission from publishers, choice of licenses, etc.).


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