Graduate students as the authors / creator of their thesis, hold the copyright. Copyright is not affected by signing the Carleton license and the Library and Archives Canada license which are non-exclusive.

Does your thesis contain the work of another person?

If your thesis contains any of the following, you might need to obtain copyright permission:

  • Parts of your thesis have been written with a co-author
  • Parts of your thesis have already been published (for example as a journal article or a chapter in a book)
  • You use a significant amount of material from a copyrighted source (i.e. work of another person). This includes long quotations, more than one diagram, chart or image, etc.

The Canadian copyright law does permit small portions of a work to be used for research, teaching and private study. It is permissible to use short quotes or single images from a copyrighted source in your theses. In all cases, the sources should be fully and properly cited.

Copyright permission

To obtain permission to use another person’s work in your thesis, you will need to contact the copyright holder, either an individual or the journal or publisher.

  • A sample letter requesting copyright permission
  • Visit the website of the journal / publisher to find out more about their copyright policy and, if necessary, procedures and contact information for obtaining copyright permission.
  • Consult your files, you may have been given information on copyright when an article in your thesis was accepted for publication.
  • The Sherpa RoMEO website “Publisher copyright policies and self archiving” might also be helpful in finding more information on the copyright policies of publishers.
  • If contacting copyright holders out of the country, note that you are submitting a thesis in Canada, under Canadian copyright law.

Please note:

  • Securing copyright permission can take a long time so it is recommended that you start seeking permission early in the research process.
  • Keep copies of all letters and emails concerning copyright permission for your files. It is preferred if copyright permission is granted in a letter on letterhead. Email permission is acceptable but should include work / university contact information, official job title and originate from an official work / university email address. Personal information such as home email, home phone number and home address should be avoided for reasons of privacy.
  • If copyright permission is given on a journal or publishers web site, print out the page, note the date of printing and keep for your records.
  • One copy each of copyright permission should accompany (but not be included in) your thesis when submitted.


Copyright also applies to material found on the internet, which cannot be freely used in a thesis without the appropriate permission and citation.


All sources consulted during the preparation of your thesis should be fully cited. Carleton University Library produces the guide “How do I … cite sources?

  • When the sources have required copyright permission, please indicate in your citation that copyright permission has been obtained.
  • Fully citing sources is standard academic practise and does not remove the need to obtain copyright permission.

Note on modification: Modifying or changing the work of another person does not remove the need to obtain copyright permission. This particularly applies to charts, diagrams, etc which have been cropped, coloured, captions reworded and fonts changed.

What if copyright permission is not available?

If copyright permission cannot be obtained then the copyrighted material must be removed from your thesis.

If the material is not crucial to the integrity of the thesis then it may be an option to delete it from the thesis. It is also possible to provide a url link to the information if it appears in compliance with copyright on the web. This is particularly useful for images, photographs, works of art, etc where it has not been possible to obtain copyright permission.

If the copyrighted material is crucial to the thesis then please remove it from the final copy of your thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. A statement should be inserted at the location where the material would have appeared indicating that the material has been removed due to copyright restrictions. Please also include a description of the information it contained and a full citation for the original source.

Questions and additional copyright information

For further information and questions, please contact

Intellectual Property

Commonly referred to as “IP”, intellectual property is considered to be the novel and unique product of an act of creation by one’s intellect. IP includes material that would be copyrighted property, such as literary or artistic works, as well as conceptual property, such as patents and industrial design.

At Carleton, IP is owned by the individual(s) who contributed to the creation of the idea. Protection of IP encourages true innovation and entrepreneurship. In the course of their research activities, graduate students often make discoveries which are covered by IP.

You should carefully review all guidelines and practices pertaining to IP found on the Carleton University Research Office website.

You should also discuss your rights and responsibilities regarding IP with your research supervisor before beginning any research project and, if relevant, obtain a signed, written agreement outlining your mutual rights and responsibilities.