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Copyright Information for Theses and Dissertations Publication

Navigate copyright requirements related to publishing your thesis or dissertation

Introduction

As the author of your thesis or dissertation, you are responsible for ensuring that your thesis or dissertation complies with Canadian copyright law.  By submitting your thesis or dissertation for publication you are confirming that you have obtained any necessary copyright permissions.  

This guide is designed to help you understand your responsibilities, and provide resources to help you obtain copyright permissions.  It should not be relied upon as legal advice. 

All Royal Roads graduate students are required to submit a copy of their thesis or dissertation for publication in VIURRSpace (Royal Roads University’s institutional repository), Library and Archives Canada, and ProQuest.

Copies of your work will be available for sale online through ProQuest, which means that your thesis or dissertation is technically a commercial work.  Many organizations allow use of their work for non-commercial, educational purposes without permission; this does not necessarily apply to your thesis or dissertation.  While writing your thesis or dissertation it is important to remember this fact, and as you choose ‘third party’ materials (and material that you did not create yourself, such as figures, maps, diagrams, photographs and excerpts from texts), to illustrate your own work, know that you will likely need to obtain copyright permission for these from the copyright owner(s) before your thesis or dissertation can be published.

In addition, if you subsequently publish your thesis (or parts of it) elsewhere, such as an academic journal, you will need to re-visit the copyright requirement to ensure that it complies with Canadian copyright law.

What is copyright?

When any person in Canada creates an original "work", the Canadian Copyright Act (and Canadian court decisions) governs who has the right to produce, copy, perform, publish, adapt, translate or telecommunicate that work.

The term "work" means

  • any literary, artistic, dramatic and musical work,
  • a computer program,
  • a translation of a work,
  • a compilation of others' works,
  • a recording of any kind, and
  • a performance of a work.

In Canada, copyright is implied as soon as a work is created;  it is protected by copyright even if the author does not include a copyright statement or symbol. 

Generally (but not always), the author of the work is the copyright owner – and that person is said to hold or own the copyright in the work. In other words, they have the right to control if and how the work will be produced, copied, performed, etc.  The rights of the copyright owner, however, are subject to certain user rights or 'exceptions', which permit members of the general public to copy, perform, etc., these works in certain limited circumstances, without the copyright owner's knowledge or permission.  Some examples of these exceptions include fair dealing (sx.29)educational exceptions (sx. 29.4), and reproduction for persons with perceptual disabilities (sx.32).

Copyright applies once the work is put into a fixed form (e.g. written down on paper, saved on a computer, recorded, videotaped, or painted on canvas) except for a sound recording, performer's performance or communication signal (which may be transmitted instead of fixed). The work does not have to be in its final form – copyright applies to drafts, too.

Copyright specifically protects a "work or any substantial part thereof."  This implies that the use of insubstantial parts of a work, such as short quotations, is allowed without copyright permission. Material such as figures, drawings, maps, photographs etc. may be considered to be whole works, and they are therefore considered to be substantial parts. Unless the author specifically states otherwise, or the work is now Public Domain, permission is needed to use substantial parts of third party material in a published thesis or dissertation.

For more information about copyright in Canada see the Government of Canada’s About Copyright publication.

What is Fair Dealing and can I use it for my Thesis?

The fair dealing exception is one of the user rights in the Canadian Copyright Act that allows for the reproduction of a copyrighted work without seeking permission from the copyright holder. In order for fair dealing to apply to your use of others’ works in your thesis,   (a) the copying must be  for one or more of the following purposes: research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting; and (b) the copying must be fair.

To determine whether copying may be considered “fair” for the purposes of fair dealing, the Supreme Court of Canada has stated that all relevant factors need to be considered, including the following, which comprise what is sometimes referred-to as the “six-factor” fair dealing test:

  • the purpose of the proposed copying, including whether it is for research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review or news reporting;
  • the character of the proposed copying, including whether it involves single or multiple copies, and whether the copy is destroyed after it is used for its specific intended purpose;
  • the amount of the dealing from the individual user’s perspective, including the proportion of the work that is copied and the importance of that excerpt in relation to the whole work; this is often referred to as a “short excerpt” and must contain no more of the work than is required in order to achieve the fair dealing purpose;
  • alternatives to copying the work, including whether there is a non-copyrighted equivalent available;
  • the nature of the work, including whether it is published or unpublished; and
  • the effect of the copying on the work, including whether the copy will compete with the commercial market of the original work.

However,  there is no definitive Canadian case law on how the six-factor test would apply to use of third-party content in theses/dissertations that are distributed via the Internet. The CAUT Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Material is a useful resource to learn about the six-factor test and to help determine if using copyright protected works in your thesis might be considered fair. For more information on fair dealing, including the RRU Copyright Office's approach to determining whether something is a “short excerpt”, please refer to the our guide on Copyright Basics and Fair Dealing.

You are personally responsible for ensuring that your thesis or dissertation complies with Canadian copyright law.  The Copyright Office recommends that you seek permission for use of all third party materials. By submitting your thesis or dissertation for publication, you are confirming that you have obtained any necessary copyright permissions.  You are required to upload the permissions when you submit your thesis for publishing.

Finally, if you subsequently publish your thesis (or parts of it) elsewhere, such as an academic journal, you will need to re-visit the copyright requirement, including any application of the fair dealing exception, to ensure that it complies with Canadian copyright law.