Copyright Guide for Thesis Preparation

Including Someone Else’s Work - Types of Information Formats Protected by Copyright

If you incorporate any of these formats that are copyright protected in your thesis or dissertation, it is your responsibility to determine if you are using an insubstantial or substantial amount of the material. If you use a substantial amount, you are required to seek copyright permission to use unless the use of the material falls under fair dealing.


Paper and digital books and articles, as well as web pages, all of which present textual information such as poems, plays, novels, research articles, papers, opinions or blogs, are covered by copyright. Substantial or insubstantial use depends in part on the proportion of the text you use. A few sentences from a novel or essay would probably be considered insubstantial but a single line from a poem can be considered substantial.

Translations of copyrighted works are also copyright protected. Please note that permission to translate substantial portions of a work must be obtained from the owner of the original work.


Images, including artistic works, photographs, maps, charts, drawings, diagrams as well as tables and graphs, are covered by copyright. It is important to verify the copyright status of images taken from a copyrighted work (books, articles, web sites or other sources). Using low resolution images in your thesis or dissertation may be considered as insubstantial use since they do not compete with the commercial interest of copyright owners.


Video, film works and television programs in any format – online, Blu-ray, DVD, VHS, Beta and U-matic tape, as well as 16mm and 35mm films - are covered by copyright. Film or video clips may also be covered by copyright; depending on the proportion of a work used in a thesis or dissertation, it may be possible to claim insubstantial use or fair dealing. For film materials found on the Web, it is important to verify if they are copyright protected.


Sound recordings of music are copyright protected. Using clips of a musical sound recording generally requires copyright clearance from the copyright holders. You will want to determine if your inclusion of such material may be considered substantial or insubstantial or if you can claim fair dealing.

Sheet music, scores, and song sheets are also covered by copyright. If you use excerpts of such materials, you may be able to claim insubstantial use or fair dealing.

Software and code

Copyright protects certain aspects of software including the underlying code. It also protects some of the external elements in a program, such as music, pictures or text as well as some of the elements of the user interface. The concept of a program is not protected by copyright, although it may be protected by patents. It is possible to produce similar programs to those that exist as long as the source code is not used.

For further information about how copyright applies to these formats and materials, see the Concordia Libraries Copyright Guide.

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