What is copyright and why is it important?
Copyright is an intellectual property right giving legal protection given to original intellectual and creative work by authors, artists, musicians, photographers and others. It exists to prevent the unauthorised reproduction of work and safeguards the rights of creators and owners to profit from their intellectual property. Only the copyright owner is entitled to authorise copying from an original work.
Original works are automatically protected by copyright law in the UK, whether or not the © symbol is used, and include:
- Written work such as books or articles
- Typographical arrangements of written work
- Artistic works such as paintings, drawings and photographs
- Moving images such as film, video and DVD
- Work in electronic form such as web pages, software and databases
- Music in written, recorded and electronic form.
Copyright in the UK is governed by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) 1988. The legislation is currently being revised to incorporate changes to UK copyright law made in 2014.
See Copying for education and research for guidance on using copyright protected works by type.
Recent changes to UK copyright law
The UK government made a number of small legislative changes to update copyright law in 2014. The changes affect education and research, libraries, museums and archives, and public administration. Among the changes is a new exception for text and data mining, which requires lawful access to the content being mined.
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has published related guidance on topics including:
See also the IPO consumer guidance on the new exceptions.
An unofficial consolidated copy of the legislation incorporating the changes has been deposited in the libraries of the Houses of Parliament. Copyright guidance on this website will be updated on an ongoing basis, as the impact of the changes on education and research are clarified, and good practice for the HE sector is established. Staff and students with questions about the changes in the meantime should contact the University's Copyright Officer.
Copying from copyright protected works is normally prohibited, unless you have obtained prior written permission from the copyright owner or are permitted to copy for your intended purpose under a licence, copyright waiver or statutory exception in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
The University holds a number of licences which permit certain otherwise restricted acts of copying for educational purposes. Copyright exceptions introduced in June 2014 also permit some previously restricted acts of copying, provided they are meet fair dealing provisions.
What copying is permitted depends on a number of variables, including what and how much you wish to copy, and whether it is for private use, classroom use, and whether you are sharing copies in a closed access environment like Blackboard Learn or the public-facing internet. Where no exception or licence covers the intended use or proportion of a work you wish to use, written permission from the copyright owner is required.
The University may be required to maintain central records of material used under some licences and copyright exceptions. Please seek advice from the Copyright Officer.
For more information about copyright for education and research, follow the links below:
- Copying for private study and research: fair dealing
- Copying from e-journals
- Copying from websites
- Copying sound and music
- Copying moving images: off-air, film, video
- Copying still images: photographs, artistic works, diagrams and maps
- Copying databases and software
- Copying for and by visually impaired persons
- Using copyright material in Blackboard Learn
- Copyright and theses
It is very easy to be in breach of copyright. Scanning or photocopying the whole issue of a journal, copying an image and putting it in Blackboard Learn, downloading music illegally from the internet, or putting a whole report or a video clip into an e-learning module are all illegal, unless you have a licence, or explicit permission from the copyright owner(s).
Copyright is an extremely complex area, but universities and individual staff or students are not immune from prosecution, so check these web pages and their links, and ask for help if you are unsure.Some external sources of copyright advice are:
- UK Intellectual Property Office
- copyrightuser.org an online resource aimed at making UK copyright law accessible to the public
- Jisc Legal Information Service provided legal guidance for ICT use in education, research and external engagement, ceasing 31 December 2014. Information on the website is archived.
- advice on the use of copyright material under copyright legislation and licensing
- training on copyright issues
- advice on how to obtain clearance for your needs