Grad Students and Copyright
Copyright permissions and your Thesis
The information below features some frequently asked questions regarding copyright and graduate theses. Please note that you are strongly encouraged to obtain copyright permissions (if necessary), and address copyright-related issues well in advance of making your final submission to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Copyright permission should be sought in advance of a thesis defence when copyright for any substantial part of the thesis is held by another party (e.g. a publisher). Please note that the information contained below does not constitute legal advice.
- Who owns the copyright in my thesis?
- Can I include copyrighted material in my thesis?
- How do I know when my use is “in keeping with the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act?”
- What if Fair Dealing doesn’t apply?
- Do I need permission to include a previously published paper I wrote in my thesis?
- What if I have a co-author on a paper I want to include in my thesis?
- What if I can’t get permission to include a paper I previously published? Or what if there is a restriction on inclusion of the material for e-theses?
- I found the material online, do I need permission to include it?
- What about open access material? Can I include that in my thesis?
- I still have questions, who should I contact?
1. Who owns the copyright in my thesis?
As the author of your thesis, you own the copyright in it. You may reuse and republish it as you wish. When you sign the Dalhousie Thesis License Agreement, you are not signing over copyright to Dalhousie University. Part of what you are doing as the copyright holder is giving the Dalhousie Libraries the right to distribute your thesis on DalSpace. This is the modern-day equivalent of providing the library with a paper copy of your thesis. The library is committed to preserving your digital Dalhousie thesis in perpetuity. The Thesis License Agreement gives us your permission to do this work.
2. Can I include copyrighted material in my thesis?
When you submit your thesis, you will have to sign the Dalhousie Thesis License Agreement and confirm that your thesis does not infringe copyright. The agreement states that if copyrighted material is in your thesis it must be (a) in keeping with the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act, or (b) done with the permission of the copyright holder(s).
It is important to note that the Copyright Act states that it is not infringement to use an “insubstantial” portion of another’s work. What is “insubstantial” is not defined by the Act, but in general quoting a few lines from a book is not going to be seen as substantial.
Please note this is in addition to observing all academic standards in writing and citation put forth by Dalhousie Senate.
3. How do I know when my use is “in keeping with the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act?"
According to the Copyright Act (Section 29), it is not an infringement to use copyrighted material without permission from or payment to the copyright holder in certain circumstances. The Act states that copying must be for one of eight specific purposes which are outlined in the Act (research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review, or news reporting), and the use of that material must be “fair and reasonable.”
When assessing fair dealing, six factors that should be weighed in order to decide whether a particular use is “fair and reasonable":
The purpose of the dealing
The character of the dealing
The amount of the dealing
Alternatives to the dealing
The nature of the work
The effect of the dealing on the original work.
More information about how to apply these factors to decide whether a particular dealing is “fair” can be found using the Fair Dealing Analysis Tools our website.
In practice, this means you can likely include a diagram, table, figure, photograph, or quotation in your thesis. In most cases, you will be including the material for the purpose of research, criticism, or review, and you will be using a very small part of the work.
Of course, every act of copying is different, and if you have any questions the Copyright Office staff will be happy to assist you in deciding whether your proposed use will be “fair and reasonable.” Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
4. What if Fair Dealing doesn’t apply?
If you are unsure or know that your use is not “fair and reasonable,” you should seek permission from the copyright holder directly for permission to include the material in your thesis. We have more information on how to seek permissions on our website.
It is strongly recommended to keep copies of all correspondence with rights holders, and if permission cannot be secured, you should not include the work in your submitted thesis.
5. Do I need permission to include a previously published paper I wrote in my thesis?
Yes. In most cases when you publish a paper in a scholarly journal, you transfer copyright to the publisher. In that case, you will need to approach the publisher and ask for permission to reuse your paper in your thesis. In order to do this, go to the publisher’s website/journal webpage, identify the contact person (usually the permissions department), and send them a copy of our Copyright Release Request Letter. These letters of permission must be included as an appendix in the thesis document.
Of course, some publishers (e.g., Elsevier) may provide you with permission in your publishing agreement to reuse your paper in your thesis. In this case you likely will not need to seek additional permission from the publisher, but we strongly suggest you keep a copy of the publishing agreement for your records.
Remember: Before you sign a publishing agreement, you can try to negotiate what rights you retain. If the agreement does not allow the republishing of the paper in a thesis or an electronic thesis, you can ask to have these sections removed. The publishers might say no, but you can always ask.
6. What if I have a co-author on a paper I want to include in my thesis?
You will need to secure the permission of all copyright holders. If this includes co-authors, please approach them for permission. This should be in writing (you can adapt the above Copyright Release Request Letter), and maintain records of all correspondence.
If the copyright has already been transferred to a third party (e.g., a publisher), you will only need to obtain and include permission from that third party. See the thesis formatting guidelines, Section 4.0 for more information.
Additionally, you must include a statement of contribution within the thesis and also submit the Student Contribution to Manuscript form to the Faculty of Graduate Studies when you make your final submission
7. What if I can’t get permission to include a paper I previously published? Or what if there is a restriction on inclusion of the material for e-theses?
If you cannot get permission to include a previously published paper/co-written paper/or any other material in your thesis, the material cannot be included.
If the publisher/copyright holder does not allow the inclusion of the material in an e-thesis, this must also be respected. As, at Dalhousie, your thesis is only submitted electronically, this means that the material may not be included.
However, it is important to note that copyright in Canada extends to only the expression of ideas, not to the ideas themselves. This means that it is possible to summarize the ideas in a previous publication (citing where appropriate), without concern of infringing copyright.
As well, even if permission to reproduce is denied to reproduce an article you have written, you may still be able to rely on Fair Dealing to include properly attributed short quoted excerpts from the work (see question #3 above on Fair Dealing).
8. I found the material online, do I need permission to include it?
Material that is online is still considered copyrighted. Unless you can make use of it under the Fair Dealing exemption, you should seek written permission from the copyright holder of the material.
9. What about open access material? Can I include that in my thesis?
Some material may come with Creative Commons licenses, for example. This material is still technically copyrighted, but the owners have licensed certain uses without requiring you to seek additional permissions. If you are using Creative Commons material, it is important that your use follows any conditions that govern the use of the material.
10. I still have questions, who should I contact?
Please feel free to contact the Copyright Office at copyright.office@Dal.ca
For more information and details on submitting your completed thesis, see the Faculty of Graduate Studies Submitting Your Thesis webpage.
Last updated: February 2018