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Copyright Information for Thesis and Dissertation Publication (Canada): Copyright Basics

What is copyright?

Copyright is created and governed by the Canadian Copyright Act and Canadian court decisions. Canada is a party to various international copyright treaties, which have been implemented by the Copyright Act, and which influence court decisions.

When any person creates an original "work", the law of copyright automatically 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.

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, which permit members of the general public to copy, perform etc. works in certain limited circumstances, without the copyright owner's knowledge or permission.

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.

From UBC's Basics FAQ. used under a CC BY-SA 4.0 licence

What is fair dealing and can I use it for my thesis?

Fair dealing is one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act that allows any person to make a copy of a copyrighted work without permission. The fair dealing exception allows copying only if: (a) the copying is for one or more of the following purposes: research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting, and (b) the copying is fair.

When copying copyrighted works for use in a thesis, such copying is primarily for the purpose of research. As understood in the context of the fair dealing exception, the research purpose does not contemplate distribution to the public (i.e., publication of your research).

Because Adler University requires you to submit your thesis to ProQuest, the fair dealing exception is not available for use in your thesis.

In addition, you may wish to publish your thesis (or parts of it) in an academic journal; publishers will typically not be satisfied with copyright works used pursuant to fair dealing and will usually require authors to obtain permission for third-party copyrighted materials prior to publication.

Used and adapted from UBC's Theses and Dissertations(CC BY-SA 4.0) license

Creative Commons Licenses/Open Access

A Creative Commons license allows creators to retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work. There are a variety of different Creative Commons licenses, and not all of the licenses allow for commercial use of the work. If material has been released under a Creative Commons license that allows commercial reuse you will not need permission to use it in your thesis (as long as it is properly cited). It’s important to verify the details of the license and make sure you follow all listed stipulations before using the material. For more information visit

Public Domain

Copyright does not last forever, and when a copyright has expired the work is considered to be "Public Domain". Material that is in the public domain does not require copyright permission as long as it is properly cited. The general rule of thumb for public domain in Canada is 50 years after the death of the author, but there are exceptions to this.

Material produced by the United States Government is automatically released as public domain. There are some exceptions to this, for more information please visit

Material produced by the Government of Canada is NOT released as public domain. This material requires copyright permission to use.

Credits and CC Licensing

This guide has been used and adapted with permission from Royal University Copyright Information Guide by Kimberley Budd and from UBC's Theses and Dissertations(CC BY-SA 4.0) license

Guide is licensed under a CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.