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Best Practices In Copyright: A Guide For Graduate Students

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As a graduate student at the University of New Brunswick, you will inevitably find yourself using and producing materials governed by copyright laws. You should take the time to think about how copyright applies to you. The following guide outlines your rights and obligations regarding copyright in the context of academic writing and publishing at the University of New Brunswick.

What is copyright and what does it cover?

You can think of copyright regulations as making concrete the rights and obligations of users, creators, and owners of expressive works. The Canadian Copyright Act balances the rights of creators and users of copyright-protected content. Specific examples of works protected by copyright range from books, articles, posters, manuals and graphs, to CDs, DVDs, software, databases and websites. Keep in mind that ideas are not protected by copyright; it is their fixed expression that is protected. An example of fixed expression can be as formal as a published document or as simple as a recording of an interview. More specifically, copyright belongs to the individual who fixed the material in its physical format.

For a more exhaustive list of works protected by copyright see, Government of Canada Publications.

Users' Rights

In the context of education, there are multiple copyright exceptions in the Canadian Copyright Act that facilitate the copying, sharing, and performing of copyrighted works across different media.

Fair Dealing

As a user-focused exception, fair dealing facilitates the sharing of short excerpts of copyrighted works for the purposes of research, private study, education, parody or satire, criticism or review, and news reporting.

Under fair dealing, you can provide short excerpts of copyrighted content to students and faculty via handout, e-mail communication, D2L, lecture presentation, and classroom display. Examples of short excerpts from Universities Canada Fair Dealing Guidelines include:

  • a copy of an article from a scientific, technical, or scholarly periodical;
  • a newspaper article;
  • an entry from an encyclopaedia, annotated bibliography, or similar reference material;
  • a short story, play, poem, or essay from a publication containing other works.
In some cases, it is possible to copy entire works, such as images, if the copy meets the requirements of fair dealing analysis. For more details, visit our Fair Dealing page or contact

Educational Exceptions to Copyright

Educational exceptions grant educational institutions certain privileges that are not provided for in the Fair Dealing provisions. For instance, the performance exception for audiovisual works enables instructors to display or perform entire copyrighted works, such as sound and video recordings, for educational purposes to an audience consisting primarily of students (provided a legal copy of the recording is used that does not contravene digital locks or any notices prohibiting the use of the work).

The educational internet use exception permits the copying or communicating of an entire work from the web (provided the original source is identified and is a legal copy not contravening digital locks or any notices prohibiting the use of the work).

The mash-up exception to copyright allows instructors and students to create, for non-commercial uses, new works using copyrighted content (provided the original author is identified, a legal copy of the original is utilized, and the new work does not have a significant adverse effect on the original).

Digital Locks

Digital locks, otherwise known as Technological Protection Measures (TPMs), are technologies that deny users access to materials that copyright owners have chosen to protect. Importantly, digital locks take priority over user rights or user exceptions. Examples of digital locks include passwords, encryption software, and access codes. If you want to copy any part of material protected by digital locks you need to obtain copyright clearance.

If you have any copyright questions, contact the Copyright Office at or call us at 447-3378.

Things to consider before and during the writing process

Keep a record of copyright-protected materials you are using in your writing and pay special attention to the following materials as they may require copyright clearance prior to publication:

  • Long quotations (more than 10% of a work)
  • Reproduced publications
  • Unpublished materials
  • Poetry
  • Dialogue from a play, screenplay, broadcast, or novel
  • Music and sheet music
  • Graphic or pictorial works
  • Computer software
  • Sources located on the internet

(List of copyright clearance items reproduced from University of Michigan's A Graduate Student's Guide to Copyright: Open Access, Fair Use and Permissions. University of Michigan Copyright Office, 2010. Web. 1 June 2013.)

Publishing Your Work: Copyright Considerations

Before you decide to publish your academic work, you need to evaluate whether the materials you include

  • qualify as substantial reproductions;
  • are in the public domain;
  • are covered by licence agreements;
  • fall within fair dealing guidelines; or
  1. Substantial versus insubstantial reproductions
    An author's rights and protections under the Canadian Copyright Act are invoked only when a substantial portion of his or her work is reproduced. Insubstantial reproductions do not activate copyright protection. Whether the amount reproduced is considered substantial is based on the quality, the quantity, and the purpose of the reproduction. For instance, a sentence from an article or a newspaper headline would likely be insubstantial, depending on the context. A line from a poem, however, may be considered substantial if it is an essential part of the poem. (Even if the amount reproduced is substantial, you may still be permitted to use it without permission or payment under fair dealing.)

  2. Resources available in the public domain
    Public domain is the term used for resources that are no longer covered by copyright law. After the term of copyright expires, usually the life of the author or creator plus fifty years, the work becomes part of public domain. Resources in the public domain may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the copyright owner.

  3. Licenced electronic resources
    When you use copyrighted material in your course work at the University of New Brunswick, your use of such materials will fall within the terms of UNB Libraries licenced electronic resources and/or fair dealing. You should be mindful that if you intend to publish your work the licenced electronic resources may have much more restrictive terms of use in a context other than your coursework. When publishing work that includes copyrighted materials previously available to you through UNB Libraries licences, you will need to evaluate whether the licence permits you to include the material in your publication (including your thesis or dissertation).

  4. Resources available based on fair dealing
    Fair dealing is available for the broadly defined purposes of research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review, and news reporting. The fair dealing provisions of the Canadian Copyright Act and recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada allow you to reproduce small portions of copyright-protected works without permission or payment. Refer to the fair dealing assessment factors to determine if you have used the published works of others "fairly."

  5. Resources that require copyright permission and/or copyright clearance
    The copyright-protected materials that you use in your university courses may not pass the fair dealing assessment in the context of publishing. Also, the terms of UNB Libraries licences may not include publication as a legitimate use of a given resource. If this is the case, you will have to obtain permission and /or clearance from publisher or author. Here is a sample copyright permission request.

Follow UNB's School of Graduate Studies Electronic Theses and Dissertations Guidenlines and consider the advantages of including your work in UNB's Electronic Theses and Dissertations program.

Submission stage

The final step of the Electronic Theses & Dissertations program makes your thesis / dissertation available in UNB Scholar, a digital repository created to capture, archive, and distribute the University's electronic research records, such as theses and dissertations, conference and working papers, preprints, journal articles, and eLearning material. Your participation in this program is encouraged but remains optional.

An additional voluntary step in the dissemination of your work by the university involves UNB Archives & Special Collections who submits your work to Library and Archives Canada for inclusion in its electronic thesis collection. The benefits of making your work available electronically include: publicity, increased citation of your work, worldwide access to your work by colleagues, potential employers, and granting agencies.

Library and Archives Canada Non-exclusive licence to Reproduce Theses

If you decide to make your work available electronically to a wide audience, you will be required to sign the Library and Archives Canada Non-exclusive licence to Reproduce Theses. This licence gives Library and Archives Canada permission to include your thesis in the Theses Canada program. You can still pursue any other publishing opportunities because the licence is non-exclusive.

Since Library and Archives Canada will disseminate your thesis/dissertation electronically, you have to obtain permission and/or copyright clearance to include copyrighted materials in your work. Library and Archives Canada provides a detailed discussion of your rights and obligations regarding copyright.

Copyright-protected materials include someone elses text, figures, maps, images, questionnaires, etc. Here is a sample copyright permission request.

Future Commercial Publication

Consider the resources for academic authors offered by the Authors Alliance, in particular, the SPARC Canadian Author Addendum. For an overview of your rights as an author, visit our Author's Rights page.


How do I know if something is protected by copyright?
Assume that a work is protected by copyright unless you have clear indication to the contrary. Copyright protection arises automatically upon creation of a work and generally continues for 50 years after the authors death. See the Government of Canada Publications for a more detailed discussion.

When is Copyright Permission Required?
Permission is required when the material you are using in your thesis/dissertation constitutes a substantial portion of a copyrighted work and would not fall within the public domain, licenced agreements, or fair dealing.

How do I include copyright-protected material in my thesis/dissertation/report?
You ask permission from the copyright holder. It may not be the author; it could be a publisher or someone else.

How do I get permission to use someone elses work?
You write to the copyright holder. Provide a detailed description of the material you will use and a detailed explanation of how you will use it. The request should include a place for the recipient to sign to indicate that they grant the requested permission. See section on copyright permission.

What do I do if permission is denied or unavailable?
Do not reproduce copyright-protected material in your thesis/dissertation without permission. Your course of action will depend on the nature of the material. In the case of an image or an artifact, for instance, you may include a description of what is missing, a full citation of the source of the material and where it can be found. Include an explanation that the material has been removed because of copyright restrictions. In the case of a thesis chapter that was previously published as a journal article, you should include an abstract of the chapter content and a link to the journal website where the original article can be read.

(Paragraph developed by the University of Toronto's School of Graduate Studies, Copyright, 2008. Web. 1 May 2013.)

I want to reproduce paintings and prints in my dissertation. Is artwork protected by copyright?
The copyright of an artwork resides with the artist and its reproduction almost always requires the artists permission. Museums and other cultural institutions, which have made reproductions of older artworks available electronically, may charge royalties for the use of their images. In the context of your coursework, you are able to use images without permission from the copyright holder; fair dealing and UNB Libraries' licenced electronic resources will cover your educational uses of copyrighted content. This is not the case when you publish or make your thesis available on the web. Providing URLs to the images within your thesis/dissertation is one way you can comply with copyright regulations in lieu of paying royalties for including copyrighted content in your publication.

Can I reproduce publications by the Government of Canada in my dissertation?
Yes. Generally, you do not need permission to reproduce publications protected by Crown copyright. However, you must comply with the Government of Canada Publications reproduction requirements. For more details on those requirements, see Government of Canada Publications.

Who owns copyright in the works I create at UNB?
You own the copyright to the works you create at UNB. For more details on the intellectual property in your work at UNB, see Technology and Knowledge Transfer at UNB and visit the Office of Research.

How does copyright work internationally?
Copyright is recognized internationally thanks to international conventions. Your copyright will generally be protected in other countries but it will be protected under that countrys laws. The level of copyright protection you get in Canada may differ from that in other countries. If you are concerned about someones use of your work overseas, you will need to check the particular jurisdictions copyright laws to confirm whether they are infringing your copyright. For an introduction to international copyright basics, see RightsDirect.

(Paragraph developed by the University of Waterloo in Copyright FAQs. University of Waterloo Library, 30 November 2012. Web. 1 June 2013.)

Can I include unpublished material from the Archives and Special Collections in my dissertation / thesis?
Every archive has its own set of regulations about the permitted uses of its collection. Be sure to find out the terms and conditions of those regulations.

Who do I talk to at UNB if I have a copyright question?
The copyright office is always pleased to assist you. Write to us at or call us at 447-3378.