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Copyright & Theses and Disserations

Copyright & Your Thesis

This guide includes basic information related to copyright and your thesis. For more information related to intellectual property and your work as a graduate student, see the the Faculty of Graduate Studies Copyright and Authorship page.

Reproducing Third-Party Materials in Your Work

Copyright does not cover everything. The copyright act lists a number of limitations and exceptions to copyright that may apply to the works you are using in your thesis or project.

The University of Windsor copyright policy outlines a number of situations where it is lawful to copy copyrighted works without permission or payment.

They include:

  • Material in which Copyright does not Subsist – Copyright does not protect facts and ideas.
  • Material in the Public Domain - Works in which the term of copyright has expired can be copied without permission or payment. This means the works of creators who have been dead for more than 50 years, no matter where they resided or published their work.
  • Insubstantial Portions – Copying an insubstantial amount of a work is not a violation of the Copyright Act and does not trigger the requirement of permission or payment. What will constitute a substantial part of a work is assessed from a quantitative and qualitative point of view. Regardless of the quantity of the work copied, if that part is distinctive, valuable or an essential part of the work, the copying will infringe the owner’s copyright. Examples of insubstantial use include selected sentences, paragraphs, verses or choruses from an article, book, poem or song .
  • Works with Implicit or Explicit Consent to Copy – Material specifically presented for public use – including Open Access publications, works placed in Institutional Repositories and works covered by Creative Commons Licenses – may typically be copied with minimal restrictions. When copying material posted on the Internet, a user should check what use rights the copyright owner permits.

The Fair Dealing Exception

If you are unsure whether the Fair Dealing exception applies to your case, please contact for help.

Exceptions are situations where copyrighted works can be reproduced without getting permission or providing compensation to a copyright holder. The most relevant exception for writing your thesis is called Fair Dealing, which would allow you to copy works for use in your thesis as long as the copying is fair and is for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review or news reporting. For the last three categories, you must mention the source of the image and the name of the author, performer, maker or broadcaster. Note: It is good academic practice to cite sources, but such citing does not remove the obligation to obtain formal permission to use copyrighted material that is not covered under "fair dealing". While copyright law in Canada does not include specific criteria for determining fairness, the CCH v. Law Society of Upper Canada Supreme Court decision set out a number of criteria that represent the most authoritative test available in Canada. These criteria are: 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 Work. For more information please visit our Fair Dealing Guide.

Seeking Permission

If you are using copyrighted material that is a substantial portion, not in the public domain, and not available under a license that permits reuse (Creative Commons), and Fair Dealing is not applicable, then you should seek permission. This may include but is not limited to:

Illustrations Figures
Tables Survey Instruments
Images Audio Files
Video Substantial Reproductions of text
Software Scores
  • Rightslink is a tool that easily allows you to request permission for republication. In cases where they cannot give permission, they also often list the contact information for the rightsholder.
  • Many publisher websites will include information about how to request permission (eg. Oxford Journals). You can also look up individual publisher policies on the SHERPA RoMEO website.
  • ProQuest has put together a guide that includes a sample permissions letter that you can use and modify for requesting permission.

Points to Remember 

  • Indicate that you are a graduate student writing a thesis or dissertation to complete your degree requirements at the University of Windsor
  • Give yourself enough time to obtain permission and indicate the response date you need
  • Keep copies of any correspondence and notices and emails

Publishing Your Thesis Elsewhere

You own the copyright to your thesis as a whole and are free to publish your thesis if you wish. If your thesis includes copyrighted works like figures, tables, etc. the publisher may request that you get permission to publish.

You should be aware that many former students in North America are contacted by publishing companies which search the Internet for theses. The companies then contact writers expressing specific interest in his or her thesis, and offer to publish it. You are free to do this if you wish, but you should research the company first to ensure that it is a reputable academic publisher. There are usually discussions between former students online which can give you an insight into the value of publishing with a particular company.