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Lund University

Writing and sources

A guide on writing and the use of sources intended for students at the department of Biologi and CEC.


The copyright law (SFS 1960:729) protects all literary and artistic works. This includes printed material such as books, articles, photographs or maps, but also works that are not printed, such as speeches, documentaries, websites, computer programs or databases. 

When a work is created, it is automatically copyrighted. The work is protected by copyright until 70 years after the death of the creator, or 70 years after the first publication when the creator is unknown. Briefly summarized, the copyright law gives the creator the right to decide if, how and when the work may be used or distributed.


Copyright applies to both factual texts, like news articles, research articles, textbooks and student essays, and works of fiction such as plays, novels and poems. Copyright law also applies to materials published on the Internet and works such as computer programs and databases. 

You have the right to reference and cite texts from public works without the author's consent, as long as it is done according to good practice. This means crediting the author and clearly stating where the reference was taken from. Citations should, however, never be too long, and their use must be justifiable.  

Documents from public authorities can in most cases be used freely, but maps, literary texts and works of art appearing in those works are still protected by copyright. Remember, however, that even if a text can be used freely, plagiarism is still an offense, and the author must always be credited when using his/her work.


Copyright law applies to all works of art, such as photographs, paintings, sculptures, drawings, images, etc. Images used to illustrate texts, for example in textbooks, articles and reports, are also protected by copyright. Note that tables and diagrams count as illustrations if they have an image-like design. In addition, maps and building plans also count as copyrighted images.

You need to ask for permission from the creator before using a copyrighted image. The creator and the source must then be stated in close proximity to the image, preferably in the caption. When using photographs of people, you will need permission from both the photographer and the individuals being photographed. If you want to use a photography depicting a work of art, you must also be granted permission from the artist of the work that is portrayed. Make sure that all permissions are in writing and that you save them.