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Copyright Guide for Thesis Preparation

Including Someone Else’s Work - Insubstantial inclusion

Copyright protects specifically a "work or any substantial part thereof" (S. 3 of the Copyright Act), which implies that use of insubstantial parts of copyright protected works are allowed by the Copyright Act. It is generally understood that quotations fall under the “insubstantial use” doctrine, so long as they are of a reasonable length. The maximum allowable length of a quotation will depend on many factors, such as the length of the original work or the nature of the work. For example, quoting half of a short poem is probably not an “insubstantial” use, while quoting a few paragraphs from a scholarly book may qualify.

Different disciplines have their own accepted practices. Academic integrity and authorship practices in your discipline may provide more important constraints to using insubstantial parts of copyright protected works (i.e. in determining the maximum length of a citation) than the Copyright Act. It is highly recommended that you discuss such norms with your thesis supervisor, thesis committee or with Olivier Charbonneau (o.charbonneau@concordia.ca) or Alex Guindon (alex.guindon@concordia.ca) in the library.

page last updated on: Thursday 21 September 2017
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