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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 (as amended). Revisions to the legislation were made in 2014 .

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

A number of small legislative changes updated UK copyright law in 2014. The changes affect education and research, libraries, museums and archives, and public administration. A new exception for non-commercial text and data mining was introduced, which requires lawful access to the content being mined. For education, a new exception, illustration for instruction was also added, which addresses statutory permissions for teaching and learning activities including examination processes.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has published related guidance on topics including:  

See also the IPO consumer guidance on the exceptions. For further support and advice, contact either your Academic Liaison Librarian or Copyright, Library Services.  

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. Some, but not all, may also allow copying for adminstrative purposes. It is important to check before using a work under licence, that the terms cover the extent being used, the intended purpose and audience. 

Statutory copyright exceptions 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.

Where permission is obtained to use or make copies of works, written copies must be kept which can be produced if requested. 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 can be very easy to infringe copyright without thinking. Scanning or photocopying the whole issue of a journal, copying an image and putting it in Brightspace or any shared online space, 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 to do so, are covered under a statutory exception, or have explicit permission from the copyright owner(s).

Copyright is an extremely complex area, and universities and their staff or students are not immune from prosecution, so it is important to check these web pages and their links, and ask for help if you are unsure. 

All staff and students are required to comply with copyright and licensing requirements, and failure to do so could result in disciplinary procedures under University regulations, legal action for breach of contract or copyright infringement, and may also result in the withdrawal of access to resources for the individual or the University.  

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