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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. Revisions to the legislation to incorporate changes to UK copyright law made in 2014 have now been updated as of 15 March 2018.

Other relevant UK legislation includes the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002, and the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003.

See the section below, 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. For education, there is a new exception covering illustration for instruction. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has published related guidance on topics including:  

See also the IPO consumer guidance on the new exceptions. Staff and students with questions about the changes in the meantime should contact the University's Copyright Officer.  

Copying for education and research

Copying from copyright protected works is normally prohibited, unless you have prior written permission from the copyright owner or your copying is covered by a licence, waiver or statutory exception in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.

The University holds a number of licences which permit certain restricted acts of copying for educational purposes. Copyright exceptions introduced in June 2014 also allow users to copy from all types of works, provided they meet the terms of the exception.

A number of variables may affect what and how much you can copy, for example, whether you are copying for private use or educational use. 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 to the right.

Copyright advice

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:

Alternatively, the University's Copyright Officer provides the following services to staff and students:

  • 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