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A guide to UK copyright

Help with Copyright



Copyright provides protection to the owner(s) of original work. Copyright is an automatic right and exists in all works no matter what format,

  • in a book
  • a web site
  • an image
  • a journal article
  • film and sound recordings
  • drawings, photographs
  • sheet music

You should not make copies unless you have the permission of the person who owns the copyright, that may be the author or the supplier or the producer.  That includes placing copies of images or text in Canvas.

How long does copyright last ?

It depends on the work in question but generally

  • Literary, dramatic, musical  or artistic works - copyright lasts for 70 after the death of the author or  creator.
  • Sound recordings - copyright last for 50 years after the work was created
  • Films - copyright lasts for 70 after the death of the principal director
  • For more details on the duration of copyright see the UK Copyright Service 
  • Once copyright expires you are free to make copies.

Exceptions to copyright for educational purposes

  • You can make copies for the purposes of instruction, e.g., copying a diagram onto a white board or overhead projector or placing a copy on Succeed. Section 32 of Copyright Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) see link below, allows works to be copied for instruction or examination. This means you can use extracts from films, sound recordings, broadcasts and texts to illustrate a teaching point. The amount you copy is subject to "fair dealing", which means you must copy only what is required and it must be for a non-commercial purpose. You cannot copy the whole work and you must include sufficient acknowledgment, i.e, reference the original from which the copy has been made.

  • If the copying is for individual private study or non-commercial research. Section 29 of CDPA allows limited copying for non-commercial research or private study.The concept of "fair dealing" applies here. It is general accepted that you can make
    • one copy of one chapter
    • or 5% of any book
    • one article from a journal
    • one paper from a set of conference proceedings
    • one single case from a law report
    • one poem or short story from anthology.‚Äč

You can make just one copy and you only copy what is necessary for the purpose.

This exemption does not apply if you want to make multiple copies, e.g. for teaching. To make multiple copies available to students to support teaching then you can take advantage of our CLA licence. Under this licence we can supply a digital copy

  • of one chapter or 10% of a book  
  • one article from a journal issue or 10% of the total issue
  • whole scene from a play or 10% of the complete play
  • short story, poem or play from a anthology (not exceeding 10 page)

which can then be made available to students via Canvas. See also the information under the Electronic Resources tab.

Simply contact your Academic Liaison Librarian with the details of the articles or chapter you want to use and we'll do the rest.

You can find out more about the CLA Higher licence here

Open Government Licence

Many UK Government publications are covered by the Open Government Licence. You can copy, publish and adapt material under this licence but you must acknowledge the source of the information. Click here for further details.

 The full text of the Copyright , Designs and Patents Act 1988  (CDPA)