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Copyright Information for Thesis and Dissertation Publication: FAQs

This guide provides information to help students comply with Canadian copyright law when publishing their thesis or dissertation

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What is Fair Dealing and can I use it for my thesis or dissertation?

Q 2.  When do I need to get permission?

Q 3.  How do I get permission?

What is Fair Dealing and can I use it for my thesis or dissertation?

Fair dealing is one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act that allows any person to make a copy of a copyrighted work without permission. The fair dealing exception allows copying only if: (a) the copying is for one or more of the following purposes: research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting, and (b) the copying is fair. 

When copying copyrighted works for use in a thesis or dissertation, such copying is primarily for the purpose of research. As understood in the context of the fair dealing exception, the research purpose does not contemplate distribution to the public (i.e., publication of your research).

Because the Royal Roads University requires you to submit your thesis or dissertation to DSpace@RRU and ProQuest (which, as mentioned above, means that it is published online) and also to the Library and Archives Canada, the fair dealing exception is not available for use in your thesis or dissertation.

In addition, you may wish to publish your thesis or dissertation (or parts of it) in an academic journal; publishers will typically not be satisfied with copyright works used pursuant to fair dealing and will usually require authors to obtain permission for third-party copyrighted materials prior to publication.

When do I need to get permission?

You should seek permission if your thesis or dissertation contains any of the following:

  • Images of any form that have been obtained from copyrighted sources. This includes any tables, figures, maps, graphs, photographs, screenshots, drawings, logos, video screen captures, etc. that have been obtained from websites, newspapers, journals, books, brochures, professors' lecture notes, etc.
  • Since you will typically be using the whole of the copyrighted image (as opposed to a small portion of the image), you should be particularly careful to obtain permission before including it in your thesis or dissertation.
  • Altering an image does not remove the need to seek permission. Common alterations include cropping, re-sizing, modifying colours, and annotating with text, arrows, and other visual call-outs.
  • Keep in mind that just because something is freely available on the web does not necessarily mean that you have permission to reproduce it. Always check the Terms of Use or copyright licence information on the website.
  • Long quotations or excerpts from any one source. Common sources of quotations include books, academic journals, newspapers, magazines, short stories, plays, and poems.
  • Articles or parts of articles that you wrote and previously published in a journal to which you assigned copyright. Academic publishing agreements commonly require authors to assign their copyright to the publisher.
  • Material co-authored with others. Each co-author shares copyright and must consent to your use of the work.
  • Scripts and recordings of any performance.
  • Translations of copyrighted work.
  • Testing instruments such as standardized tests, questionnaires, forms, and surveys.

Important: The list above is not exhaustive. If your use of copyrighted material is not described above, that does not necessarily mean that you do not need to seek permission.

How do I get permission?

Seeking permission is a straightforward process, but obtaining responses from copyright owners can take a long time. You are strongly encouraged to send out your permission requests, using the RRU copyright permission form letter for theses & dissertations, as early as possible.

Identify the Copyright Owner

The first step in the process is to identify the copyright owner. Usually you will be able to identify the owner somewhere on the work by looking for the copyright symbol ©, which should have the copyright owner’s name next to it. You’ll often find this at the beginning of a book, at the side of a photograph or at the bottom of a web page.

Permission from Individuals

If the copyright owner is an individual, then the next step is to email or write to him/her, explaining how and why you want to use the work and requesting permission. The permission should be in writing, and include the RRU copyright permission form letter for theses & dissertationsPermission via email is acceptable, as long as you include the RRU copyright letter as an attachment, and the person granting permission states that they agree to the terms and conditions outlined in the letter. They should also include their contact information or signature block. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of who gave the permission, what was permitted, the date, and how to contact the person who gave the permission.

Permission from Commercial Publishers

If the copyright owner is a commercial publisher, the fastest course of action is often to search for the work in question at the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). The CCC handles permissions for a large number of publishers, and permission to include images in theses can often be obtained through the CCC website swiftly and at no cost.

If you cannot obtain permission through the CCC, then the next step is to check the publisher’s website. Many publishers will require that you submit your request directly to their permissions department, while others will require that you use an online form.

When you arrive at the website, look for a link that says "Rights and Permissions" (or something similar), then read through the available information to determine the correct method for requesting permission.

Permission from Journals

If the copyright owner is an academic journal (or an academic association/society that publishes a journal), then you may be able to obtain permission through the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), as discussed above. If permission is not available through the CCC, then you should check the journal’s website, which may provide one or more of the following:

  • Advance permission for specific uses. For example, The Journal of Biological Chemistry provides advance permission for non-commercial use.
  • Advance permission to journal authors who have signed over copyright
  • Information on how to request permission
  • Information on uses that are specifically prohibited

If you can’t locate any information about copyright and permissions on the journal’s website, then visit the website of the company or organization that publishes the journal.

If permission to use copyrighted material is given on a website, then print out or save an electronic copy of the web page that states this and keep it for your records. Note, saving a link to the page is not sufficient, as the link may break or the content of the website may change.

Proof of Permission

You should keep copies of all letters and forms granting you permission to use copyrighted material. These copies are for your own records; do not include them in your thesis or dissertation.

When you are asking for permission to use material in your thesis or dissertation, the wording you use is very important. The person granting permission needs to be fully informed of how the material will be used and distributed. To ensure that you don't need to ask for permission more than once, please use the RRU copyright permission form letter for theses & dissertations

Permission via email is acceptable, as long as you include the RRU copyright letter as an attachment, and the person granting permission states that they agree to the terms and conditions outlined in the letter. They should also include their contact information or signature block.