Copyright matters for graduate research students


Writing up your thesis


Fair Dealing for the Purpose of Criticism or Review

You may be able to rely on section 41 of the Copyright Act, Fair Dealing for the Purpose of Criticism or Review, if you are reproducing copyright material in your thesis.

No ‘reasonable portion’ is defined in this section of the Act - it could be the whole or part of a work. What is relevant is that there is “a genuine attempt at criticism or review” (copyright Act, p. 109) “…whether of that work or of another work, and a sufficient acknowledgement of the work is made” (s. 41). (NB this provision does not apply to unpublished material).

Using third party text in your thesis

You may quote an 'insubstantial portion' of a copyright protected third party work without needing the author's permission. An 'insubstantial portion' is usually considered to be less than 1% of a work, or up to 400 words in a continuous passage.

If you need to quote more than this you should seek written permission from the author or other copyright owner. See the template for a letter of request for guidance on how to ask for permission to reproduce copyright protected material. Be aware that you may be asked to pay royalties for your use.

Using third party images and multimedia in your thesis

Artistic Works and AV Works may be used under the Fair Dealing provision. However, because it is difficult to define either a reasonable or an insubstantial portion of an artistic work or an AV work, if the work is protected by copyright, you should seek permission from the author or other copyright owner.

Alternatively, you must be prepared to suppress the work in the online version of your thesis, unless the third party content has been made available under, for instance, a Creative Commons licence.

Using Creative Commons licensed third party material in your thesis

Many authors, artists, musicians, and other creators are choosing to release their works under less exclusive conditions than those automatically imposed by copyright legislation.

Creative Commons is probably the best known ‘some rights reserved’ licensing system; it gives creators the option to license their works in less restrictive ways than those automatically imposed by copyright’s ‘all rights reserved’ legislation.

Every CC licence allows licensees to, at least:
• copy the work; distribute it; display or perform it publicly; make digital public performances of it; and shift the work into another format as a verbatim copy.

see Creative Commons and other Open Access materials

Using copyright protected works in the digital version of your thesis

It is University policy that you deposit one hard copy and one digital copy of your thesis with the Library. The digital copy will be made public in the University’s Research Repository.

There are additional copyright considerations that do not apply to the printed copy of your thesis.

  • You must have written permission from the copyright owner(s) to communicate a ‘substantial portion’ of any copyright work, especially online. It is your responsibility to seek clearance or permission if your thesis contains material subject to copyright.
  • Any copyright protected material (beyond brief quotations) for which you do not have permission must be removed or otherwise restricted before depositing the digital version of your thesis.

Seeking Permission to Use Copyright Protected Materials in Your Thesis

Copyright may be held by more than one person or entity. When asking for permission to reproduce or communicate a work, or a portion of a work, make sure that you receive permission from all the relevant parties. Ask the addressee if they are the sole owner, or if there are others from whom permission is required.

Copies of any permissions granted should be lodged with your thesis.

If you cannot obtain permission, the material must be suppressed when depositing the digital version of your thesis in the Research Repository.