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Copyright information for theses and dissertations publication

Navigate copyright requirements related to publishing your thesis or dissertation


When you are unable to obtain permission to use third-party material in your thesis or dissertation, you can replace the material with a different work for which permission is either obtainable or not required.  Permission free alternatives include materials found in the public domain, and materials  with Creative Commons licenses

Public Domain

Copyright does not last forever; when copyright expires, the work is considered in the public domain.

After copyright expires, and a work becomes part of the public domain, it can be freely copied, distributed, adapted, and performed without having to request permission from the author or having to pay any royalties.

While there is no legal requirement to attribute works that are in the public domain to their creators, citing public domain materials is an important part of maintaining academic integrity.

The public domain should not be confused with works that are available publicly (e.g. via the internet).  Many publicly available works are protected by copyright.


Effective December 30, 2022, the general term for copyright protection in Canada is changing from the life of the creator plus 50 years to the life of the creator plus 70 years. This term extension was agreed to in the Canada - United States - Mexico Agreement trade treaty. The new term matches the general copyright term in the United States and several other countries around the world.

This change will not alter the status of any works that had previously entered the public domain under the 50 year term rule, but it will create two rules for determining whether works are protected by copyright or are in the public domain in Canada:

  1. If the creator died in 1971 or earlier, copyright protection has expired and their works are now in the public domain in Canada (50 year rule in effect prior to Dec. 30th, 2022);
  2. If the creator died in 1972 or later, their works are protected for their life plus 70 years (70 year rule as of Dec. 30, 2022).







Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit that offers an alternative to copyright licenses. It provides licenses that allow you to make and use created works with varying degrees of openness. There are a variety of different creative commons licenses, and not all of the licenses allow for commercial use of the work. It’s important to verify the details of the license and make sure you follow all listed stipulations before using the material. 

This video explains Creative Commons in more detail.

For more information on Creative Commons, visit the RRU Copyright Office guide on Creative Commons and other permission free alternatives.