Copyright and your thesis

While you own the copyright to your thesis or dissertation, that ownership applies to the content you created and for which you still own the copyright.


While you own the copyright to your thesis or dissertation, that ownership applies to the content you created and for which you still own the copyright. If you are including articles you have published in your thesis, do not assume that you own the copyright to the final published version. See the Thesis as a series of articles (see below) section for more details. 

If you are reproducing third-party content protected by copyright, it is your responsibility to ensure that it respects Canadian copyright law, either as a legal exception or by obtaining written permission from the copyright owner.  

These exceptions and permissions only apply to this version of your thesis. If you later publish your thesis or parts of it, you will need to follow the publisher’s own copyright guidelines.  

Once your thesis is complete, refer to the Creators page for information on your rights as a copyright protection holder.

Reproducing third-party content

Content under a Creative Commons licence or other open licences 

Content published in open access can be reproduced without permission as long as it respects the conditions outlined in the terms of use. This openness is often communicated through a Creative Commons licence.  

When reproducing content under an open licence in your thesis, make sure to properly cite the source by including the following information: 

Title, Author, Source, Licence (with a link to the licence terms) 

See Creative Commons Best practices for attribution for examples. 

Fair dealing exception – Criticism or review 

The fair dealing exception for the purpose of criticism or review allows for the reproduction of short excerpts of content in your thesis without permission. However, the criticism or review needs to be relatively explicit. The excerpt must be analyzed; if you are just using it as an example or to illustrate a point, you should not rely on this exception. When using this exception, you must properly cite the source in your thesis. 

Requesting permission  

Give yourself plenty of time when requesting permission to obtain a response by your thesis submission deadline. 

If the content you want to reproduce comes from a published article from a large scholarly publisher, locate the article online and follow the “rights and permissions” link (or a variation thereof). It will take you to the RightsLink platform. You may be asked to create an individual account to complete the request and obtain a licence, even if the permission is free. Save the licence as your written permission.  

Otherwise, you may need to contact the copyright owner directly to request permission. If there is already an online form for this purpose on the copyright owner’s website, use it. If not, find an email address. Once you have a contact, include the following in your request: 

  • Introduce yourself 
  • Identify the content for which you are requesting permission 
  • Confirm that they are the copyright owner and have authority to provide permission 
  • Describe how you want to use this content

Unable to get permission to reproduce copyright-protected materials?  

If you are unable to obtain permission, you may need to remove the content from your thesis and leave a blank space. This is a last resort: your thesis must be as complete as possible. This option is only acceptable if you are denied permission, if an unreasonable fee will be charged, or if you receive no response from the copyright owner after making repeated efforts at contacting them.  

This blank space must contain the following:  

  • A statement that the material has been removed because of copyright restrictions  
  • A description of the material and the information it contained  
  • A full citation of the original source of the material  

Example: “Figure 3 has been removed due to copyright restrictions. It was a diagram of the apparatus used in performing the experiment, showing the changes made by the investigating team. Original source: Wu, G. and Thompson, J.R. (2008) Effect of Ketone Bodies on Dairy Cattle. Biochem J. 255:139-144.”  

If it is an online source, if possible, include a stable URL.  

Thesis as a series of articles (also known as article-based thesis or thesis by manuscript)

If any of the content in your thesis has been published or submitted for publication already, such as in the form of articles, verify the copyright or licence conditions of the journal or publisher to understand how to include it in the final version of your thesis, which will be uploaded to uO Research.

  1. Does the publisher require copyright transfer?

Many journals and publishers ask you to sign your copyright interests over to them when they agree to publish your article, chapter, or book. If this is the case, it should be stated on their website or in the publication agreement. Alternatively, you can ask the publisher directly.

Remember that, before signing a publication agreement, you can always negotiate with the publisher in order to keep your copyright.

If copyright transfer is not required, then you can generally use your published or submitted content in your thesis without permission.

  1. If copyright transfer is required

You are encouraged to publish in open access – if this was the case, then the applicable licence may allow you to reuse your content in your thesis, even if copyright transfer is required. This should be stated on the journal or publisher’s website, or you can ask the publisher directly.

If the content was not published in open access, mostpublishers will still allow you to include the final draft version in your thesis – either the draft you submitted (“preprint”), or even the draft that has been peer-reviewed and accepted but not yet formatted by the publisher (post-print).  

When using the post-print, and depending on the publication date, some journals or publishers may require that an embargo be placed on the final version of your thesis in uO Research. To apply for an embargo,see How do I request an embargo?

Use the database Sherpa Romeo to verify your journal or publisher’s policy on which version of the content you can include in your thesis, where you may upload this content, and whether an embargo is required. Please note that certain conditions may apply depending on the option selected. For example, citation of the source, and/or linking to the publisher’s version with DOI. Verify the terms and conditions on their website or contact the publisher directly.  

It is important to note that if your content was written with co-authors, you need to obtain their permission to include it in your thesis.

Finally, remember to maintain a file including your publishing agreement, as well as email and other correspondence with the publisher, as evidence that you have permission to use the content in your thesis.

Applying a Creative Commons licence to your thesis (optional)

As the copyright owner of your thesis, you can make it available openly under a Creative Commons (CC) licence. A CC licence is a legal and simple way to give permission to others to use your work as long as they respect the conditions of the licence. You are still the copyright owner, but you are making it easier for others to build upon your research.  

If you choose to apply a CC licence to your thesis, it will cover the content for which you own the copyright. If you reproduced content for which you do not own the copyright or content under other open licences, your own CC licence will not apply to that third-party content. 

To help you choose a Creative Commons licence for your thesis, consult the CC License Chooser.  

You can add the licence to your thesis as follows on the cover page, under the copyright notice:  

Unless otherwise indicated, this [thesis or dissertation] is made available under the terms of a Creative Commons [add chosen licence conditions] 4.0 International licence [link to the licence].  


© Maria Garcia Hernandez, Ottawa, Canada, 2018 

Unless otherwise indicated, this thesis is made available under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence (


Contains materials adapted from Copyright at UBC - Theses and Dissertations by the University of British Columbia - licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

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