Skip to Main Content

Research Guides

Submit and Publish Your Thesis

Authors' Rights and Your Thesis

Your Rights in Your Thesis

At the University of Toronto, students own the copyright in their works, including their master’s and doctoral theses. Learn more about your copyrights as a student here. 

What this means is that as the owner of your bundle of rights in your thesis:

  1. You can authorize others to exercise some of the rights you exclusively own - a non-exclusive license

  2. You can give someone the sole right to exercise some of the rights you own - an exclusive license

  3. You can give someone ownership to all of your rights that lasts the length of your copyright term (your life plus 70* years) - a copyright transfer or copyright agreement

Authors' Rights and Scholarly Publishing

Though many authors of scholarly articles may not realize it, many journal publishers require that you transfer your copyright to them as part of their standard publication agreement. This signing away, or "assignment," of authors' copyright often prevents them from making copies of their own work freely available or from building on their work in subsequent works, amongst other rights.

Author rights allow you to:

  • Reproduce your work (publish, make copies, reformat, etc.)
  • Create derivative works (edit or build upon an existing piece of scholarship)
  • Distribute the work (publish, republish, give away, sell, etc.)
  • Perform, display, or broadcast your work in public

Author rights are inheritable, separable, and assignable

  • Rights held from creation through the author’s life plus 70 years
  • Copyright in a work may be assigned or licensed to others. All assignments and licences of copyright must be in writing to be valid. The mere transfer of physical possession of a work does not thereby include an assignment of copyright in the work
  • Subsequent rights holders may assign rights in whatever way they choose

Authors' Rights and the Integrated or "Sandwich" Thesis

Your rights in your thesis, however, do not exist in a vacuum. Students in some disciplines increasingly write integrated or "sandwich" theses. In such cases, they have already published or plan to publish parts or all of their manuscript(s) as a journal article prior to graduation.

In doing so, they will likely have entered into agreements with publishers when their manuscript was accepted for publication. These agreements may have asked an author to license or assign some or all of their rights to your publisher, and therefore may have placed restrictions on whether or not  students may make their chapter which was published as an article openly available as part of a thesis. 

The School of Graduate Studies recommends that in cases where a thesis chapter was previously published as a journal article, and where the publisher holds exclusive rights to publishing the article online, that students should include in place of their chapter an abstract of the chapter content and a link to the journal website where the original article can be read. 

See a more granular discussion of these and other issues: Publishing Your Thesis


How to retain your rights:

Moral Rights

Protected under Canadian copyright law, moral rights remain with the author of a work, even when the copyright in the work has been sold or assigned.

Moral rights include:

  • The author's right to be associated with the work as its author by name or under a pseudonym and the right to remain anonymous
  • The author's right to the integrity of the work (that is, the author's right to stop the work from being distorted, mutilated or modified, to the prejudice of the author's honour or reputation, or from being used in association with a product, service, cause or institution)
  • Read more about Moral Rights in section 14.1 of the Copyright Act