Answered By: Paris Carr
Last Updated: Aug 24, 2021     Views: 4

The fair dealing exception is one of the user rights in the Canadian Copyright Act that allows for the reproduction of a copyrighted work without seeking permission from the copyright holder. In order for fair dealing to apply to your use of others’ works in your thesis,   (a) the copying must be  for one or more of the following purposes: research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting; and (b) the copying must be fair.

To determine whether copying may be considered “fair” for the purposes of fair dealing, the Supreme Court of Canada has stated that all relevant factors need to be considered, including the following, which comprise what is sometimes referred-to as the “six-factor” fair dealing test:

  • the purpose of the proposed copying, including whether it is for research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review or news reporting;
  • the character of the proposed copying, including whether it involves single or multiple copies, and whether the copy is destroyed after it is used for its specific intended purpose;
  • the amount of the dealing from the individual user’s perspective, including the proportion of the work that is copied and the importance of that excerpt in relation to the whole work; this is often referred to as a “short excerpt” and must contain no more of the work than is required in order to achieve the fair dealing purpose;
  • alternatives to copying the work, including whether there is a non-copyrighted equivalent available;
  • the nature of the work, including whether it is published or unpublished; and
  • the effect of the copying on the work, including whether the copy will compete with the commercial market of the original work.

However,  there is no definitive Canadian case law on how the six-factor test would apply to use of third-party content in theses/dissertations that are distributed via the Internet. The CAUT Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Material is a useful resource to learn about the six-factor test and to help determine if using copyright protected works in your thesis might be considered fair. For more information on fair dealing, including the RRU Copyright Office's approach to determining whether something is a “short excerpt”, please refer to the our guide on Copyright Basics and Fair Dealing.

You are personally responsible for ensuring that your thesis or dissertation complies with Canadian copyright law.  The Copyright Office recommends that you seek permission for use of all third party materials. By submitting your thesis or dissertation for publication, you are confirming that you have obtained any necessary copyright permissions.  You are required to upload the permissions when you submit your thesis for publishing.

Finally, if you subsequently publish your thesis (or parts of it) elsewhere, such as an academic journal, you will need to re-visit the copyright requirement, including any application of the fair dealing exception, to ensure that it complies with Canadian copyright law.