Understand the Copyright Policy in Commercialization

What do I need before I can begin?

Only in select instances do authors need to disclose the creation of copyright material to the Innovations and Partnerships Office (IPO) through the U of T Copyright Disclosure Form.

Ownership of copyright material created at the University of Toronto (U of T) depends on a number of factors. It is best to understand the following.

  1. Your employee classification or status at the University
  2. The type of work created
  3. The University resources used in the work’s creation
  4. Any contracts signed specifically related to the work

What Is a Copyright and How Is It Useful?

Copyright is the exclusive legal right to produce, reproduce, publish or perform original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs), as well as performances, sound recordings and communication signals. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

The Canadian Copyright Act automatically secures protection when a work is fixed into a tangible medium such as a book, software code, video, etc. In some instances, The University of Toronto (U of T) registers copyright, but generally not until a commercial product is ready.

By registering copyright with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), a certificate is received that can be used in court as evidence of ownership. In Canada, copyright protection lasts the lifetime of the author and for 70 years following death. After that, the work is in the public domain, and anyone can use it.

Key Definitions

‘Teaching Staff’ is defined in the U of T Copyright Policy as updated. It includes the following: professor, associate professor, assistant professor, full-time lecturer or part-time lecturer, unless such part-time lecturer is registered as a student, or who hold any other rank created by U of T and designated by it as an academic rank.

‘Administrative Staff’ refers to the employees of the University, University College, the constituent colleges and the federated universities who are not members of the Teaching Staff.

‘Substantial Use of U of T Resources’ refers to the extraordinary provision of resources by U of T, which includes, without limitation: release time from regularly assigned duties where the primary purpose of this is the creation of a work; direct discretionary investment by U of T of funds or staff, or the purchase of special equipment for the creation of a work; extraordinary use of multimedia production personnel and facilities; and, extraordinary use of computing resources. It would not normally include basic salary or the provision of overhead costs associated with the U of T’s administration of external funds.

U of T's Copyright Policy

In general, as per the U of T Copyright Policy.

  1. ‘Teaching Staff’ (including faculty, professors, and lecturers), own the copyright in the following works
    1. Instructional materials (including lessons, slides, guides, and instructional software)
    2. Academic publications and articles
    3. Architectural, artistic, choreographic, cinematographic, dramatic, literary, musical, scientific, technical or other works in which copyright may subsist under the Copyright Act and applicable law
  2. If any of the above were created with ‘Substantial Use of U of T resources’ (see definition above) AND the author or U of T wishes to commercialize, then the author must complete the U of T Copyright Disclosure Form
  3. The University will own Copyright in all works which meet the following criteria
    1. Works that have been created by a member of the ‘Administrative Staff’ (employees of the University, University College, the constituent colleges and the federated universities who are not members of the Teaching Staff) in the course of the author’s employment at U of T.
    2. Or, works that have been specifically commissioned by U of T under a written agreement regardless of whether or not the author is considered part of U of T’s Teaching Staff.
  4. If the copyright material is computer code, source code or software that is not instructional software, it’s managed under the U of T Inventions Policy. In this case, submit the U of T Invention Disclosure Form  and visit the page Disclose an Invention for more information
  5. In all other cases, the author will own the Copyright, except to the extent that any rights have been granted to a third party under a prior written agreement signed by U of T and acknowledged in writing by the author. For example, some research sponsors will own the final report from a research project

Overview of Copyright Ownership at U of T

Who owns my work as per the Copyright Policy?

The work was: I am Teaching Staff*, Faculty, a Librarian or student.
Copyright owned by:
I am Administrative Staff*.
Copyright owned by:
Research, thesis, or other academic publications Author n/a
Teaching materials such as lesson plans, learning or analytic guides, instructional software, overview slides of concepts, supplementary documents, online interactive tutorials Author University
Created without Substantial Use of U of T resources Author University
Created with Substantial Use of U of T resources AND Author wishes to commercialize Author
-Submit a Copyright Disclosure to the Innovations & Partnerships Office (IPO). Revenue Sharing applies if the work is commercialized
Created under a commission by a Department, Faculty, or the University (with an agreement in place) University University
Computer software that is NOT instructional software Covered by the Inventions Policy: please visit Disclose an Invention Refer to your employment agreement
Created under a prior written agreement signed by U of T and acknowledged in writing by the author As defined in the agreement As defined in the agreement
Created through my regular course of employment N/A University

* Refer to Key Definitions above

How does research assistant work align with the Copyright Policy?

If you are a Research Assistant who is hired as part of a research project, you need to determine who owns the rights to your work, as employers generally own the copyright in work created by an employee. You also need to determine who holds copyright to any work created by a team, which may be determined by your contract. Please review your contract and contact your Faculty Advisor.

How to File a Disclosure

If you are Teaching Staff (including faculty, professors, and lecturers), a Student, or Librarian that think you have used Substantial U of T Resources as defined above, AND wish to Commercialize the Work, complete the following steps.

  1. Fill out the U of T Copyright Disclosure Form
  2. Submit the signed form to the Intellectual Property Officer via email to

Forms & Downloads


  • Manage copyright issues escalated by Academic Chairs
  • Manage the processing of Copyright Disclosure Forms

VPRI Contact


General Inquiries: Intellectual Property

Innovations & Partnerships Office (IPO)

Other Resources