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Copyright: What do I need to know?

Guidance and tips on making copyright law work for you in your University teaching and study.

What is copyright and why do I need to know about it?

Text on a page in an open book being photographed using a mobile phoneCopyright gives protection to the creators/owners of most kinds of original work (in any fixed format – whether written, printed, digital etc.) against their creations being exploited by others. The University community uses and produces thousands of copyright works every day: sharing, critiquing and creating copyright-protected material is integral to our teaching and research activities.

An understanding of copyright issues is crucial for well-informed decision-making, both to benefit from the proper legal protection of our own scholarship & the resources we develop (without being unduly restrictive), and to guard against any inadvertent infringement of third party rights, which could lead to legal action being taken against the University.

This guide provides an outline of the position under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended) and under relevant educational licences held by the University in respect of particular works and uses. For more detailed guidance see the links provided in this guide and the books on intellectual property and copyright law held in our collections.

Image: Elmira Ashirova via Pixabay (CC0)

University copyright policy

The University's Copyright Policy sets out the responsibilities of individuals and of School and Directorate Heads in respect of the use of third party material. The University considers breach of copyright to be a serious offence and may take disciplinary action where this occurs.

Useful links

Simple copyright tips to keep you legal

  1. Always attribute the source of any resource you use – otherwise, you won't be able to rely on copyright exceptions for teaching or research.
  2. Use your online reading list to provide links to recommended reading and to request scans of chapters/articles not already available as e-books or e-journals. Contact your academic liaison librarian for help.
  3. Consider how you use images and where possible use your own pictures, or those available under a Creative Commons licence or in the Public Domain – if you cannot find something suitable, you might need specific permission from the copyright owner to reuse their work.
  4. Never upload a pdf of a published article or book chapter to Blackboard – use a stable link instead to direct students to the article or chapter online.
  5. Never scan a journal article or book chapter yourself – use the Library’s Scanning Service to provide a legal and copyright-cleared scan.


Image: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay (CC0)

What does copyright protect?

UK copyright law automatically protects literary, artistic, musical and dramatic works of original intellectual creation, as well as films, sound recordings, broadcasts and typographical layouts of publications. Examples of literary works include books and journal articles, as well as song lyrics, software and databases. Artistic works include photographs, collages and buildings. The subsistence of copyright does require literary or artistic merit; merely for the material to comprise an original work of intellectual creation.

Copyright gives exclusive rights to creators and owners of copyright to control how their works are used (copyright restrictions) and sets out limitations to copyright for users in specific circumstances (copyright exceptions).

Generally, the creator of a work will be the first owner of copyright, although works created in the course of employment are normally owned by the employer and authors are sometimes asked to transfer their rights to publishers.

Faculty and postgraduate students should consult the Publishing your work section of this guide and are reminded to read the University’s Code of Practice on Intellectual Property for more information regarding rights in scholarly output and teaching materials.

Using copyright-protected work

The University holds a number of licences from rights owners, permitting some copying for educational purposes (which would otherwise require specific permission for each use, individually). These include the CLA Licence for photocopying and scanning of journal articles and book chapters, the NLA Licence for photocopying and scanning newspaper articles, and the ERA Licence for the recording of broadcasts from certain channels & the use of the Box of Broadcasts service.

Use the link below to find out more:

To ensure compliance with the licence conditions, copying for reading lists must be undertaken by Library staff. For more information about the Library’s Scanning service, please follow the link below:

Further help

If you need further assistance please contact: