What is copyright?

Copyright is a property right over work produced by an author or creator. In some circumstances copyright is held by another individual or body, an author’s next of kin, for instance, or a publishing company. Importantly this right covers the reproduction of the work even in an altered state or using another media. The legal rights over material can be both economic (concerned with the financial interests of the copyright holder) and moral (relating to the reputation of the author or creator).

What materials are covered by copyright?

Copyright applies to works produced in paper form and to sound and visual recordings held on tape, disc, or other format including the internet. These may be literary, dramatic or musical works, illustrations, photographs, recordings, broadcasts, designs and other artistic works, computer programmes, data sets, and even specific typographical arrangements. Copyright protection is automatic and copying anything without permission breaches the owner’s copyright and is illegal. An author’s copyright lasts for 70 years after the author’s death, but this is not always a good basis on which to copy a particular work as copyright may have been passed on to another party.

What can I copy?

Under the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, ‘fair dealing’allows the limited copying of copyright material for research and private study.

There is no precise definition of what is fair, but it depends on (i) the proportion of the original that is copied, and (ii) whether the copying competes with a use the owner might make. Short extracts of a work may also be copied for the purposes of criticism or review provided the original is sufficiently acknowledged. Fair dealing with a work other than a photograph is allowed for the purpose of reporting current events, also if sufficiently acknowledged, but this does not include a newsworthy matter of history.

Otherwise, the type of fair dealing relevant to the University concerns SINGLE COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY OR RESEARCH. As a result of recent legislation this research or private study MUST BE NON-COMMERCIAL IN NATURE. For most published works long-established practice suggests that for these purposes you may copy 5% of a work or:

  1. One complete chapter of a book;
  2. One article per issue of a journal or set of conference proceedings;
  3. Up to 10% (maximum of 20 pages) per short book (without chapters), report, pamphlet or Standard Specification;
  4. One poem or short story (maximum of 10 pages) from an anthology;
  5. One separate illustration or map up to A4 size (but illustrations which are an integral part of articles/chapters may be included in categories 1 and 2 above);
  6. Short excerpts only from musical works (not whole works or movements) and no copying for performance purposes.

Fair dealing does NOT apply to repeat copying from the same work which exceeds these limits, or to copying for someone else if it is likely to result in copies of substantially the same material being provided to more than one person at substantially the same time and for substantially the same purpose. However, the University holds a licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) which permits multiple photocopying under particular conditions. Further details relating to this and other licences held by the University can be accessed here. General CLA licence notices are also located on or near each photocopier.

This is only intended as a brief summary, and much may depend on specific circumstances. If in doubt, please consult Information Services staff.

If you break this law YOU could be sued for damages. You would also be in breach of the university's regulations and subject to disciplinary action.