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Copyright Guide for Thesis Preparation

Including Someone Else’s Work - Fair Dealing vs. Seeking Permission

In general, employing a substantial part or the whole of a copyrighted work requires you to:

  • Qualify for fair dealing, in which case you do not have to seek permission for using the copyrighted work OR
  • Seek and obtain permission for your intended use OR
  • Refrain from using the work.

The guidelines and information below can assist with your decision about including a copyright protected work in your thesis1.

Fair dealing is a general exception to copyright which applies in the context of private study, research, education, parody or satire, criticism, review, news reporting and usually implies that the source of the work must be identified through proper citation. Fair dealing is defined by stating what it is not: "Fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright." (Copyright Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42, art. 292 ). This makes it more difficult to define precisely when a use qualifies for fair dealing.

The critique or review of a copyright protected work that is quoted in your thesis may qualify for inclusion as criticism or review under fair dealing. The context or the purpose of how you include the work is the first important factor to consider. For example, including a copyrighted image would arguably not constitute fair dealing for criticism or review if you did not discuss the image. The more something is discussed in your thesis, the easier it becomes to qualify for fair dealing in the appropriate context.

Another factor to consider when assessing fair dealing is “proportionality”. This refers to the proportion or amount of the work that you use compared to the complete work. Reproducing a large section of a work that only constitutes a small proportion of the entire work may more easily be considered fair dealing than using a large proportion of the work. The latter may require that you seek a permission to use such work in your thesis.

These factors above are intended to guide you in determining whether you can include the copyrighted work in your thesis, or whether you need to consider alternatives to using the copyright protected work because your proposed use will have a detrimental impact on the work and its rights holder. For example, it is easier to qualify for fair dealing for criticism and review if the reproduction of an image is reduced in size or resolution, the image’s characteristics are thoroughly discussed in your thesis, its suppression would diminish the quality and relevance of the discussion and a full citation for its source is included.

For further information regarding other factors that should be taken into account, consult The Concordia Libraries Copyright Guide. Again, general or accepted uses in your field may be a guide towards what constitutes fair dealing.


1Please note that making copies of articles and other copyrighted works for your personal records easily fits within the context of fair dealing for the purposes of private study or research. In this Guide, we are discussing the use of copyrighted works within your thesis. For more information about copying for private study or research purposes, please read: http://library.concordia.ca/help/copyright/?guid=text

2http://www.canlii. org/en/ca/laws/stat/rsc-1985-c-c-42/latest/rsc-1985-c-c-42.html#_Exceptions_189943

page last updated on: Tuesday 12 July 2016
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