Planning, Governance and Compliance

Copyright Guidance

University staff and students must respect the law of copyright, and relevant licences, in any copying they undertake of works in copyright.

These notes are intended to give general guidance on copyright issues and on what copies can, and cannot, be made within the law. However, they cannot be relied upon as a comprehensive or official statement of the law.

What is copyright?

Copyright gives legal protection to the creators of certain kinds of work so that they can control the way they may be exploited. Copyright law in the UK is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as amended.

Under the Act, copyright subsists in the following works:

  • Literary works, which include such things as tables, street directories and letters as well as literature in the more commonly accepted sense of the term.
  • Computer programs. These are included in the category of literary works.
  • Dramatic works (plays, filmscripts, etc.).
  • Musical works.
  • Artistic works, including graphic works, sculptures, maps, photographs (irrespective of artistic quality), architecture and works of artistic craftsmanship.
  • Sound recordings.
  • Films, including videos.
  • Broadcasts, including cable programmes.
  • Published editions, i.e. the typographical layout of a literary dramatic or musical work. So, the content of a recently published edition of a work written many years ago could be out of copyright, but the 'typographical arrangement' would not.

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How long does copyright last?

Copyright protection is automatic from the moment of creation or production; one does not have to 'register' a work to acquire copyright protection for it. However the work must be recorded in writing or some other material form (there is no copyright in ideas), it must be original, and it must be the product of sufficient expenditure of time, talent or money to make the outcome worthy of protection: there is no copyright in the merely trivial.

  • Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works.
    Copyright expires 70 years after the end of the year of the author's death. If there is no known author, copyright expires 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made, or 70 years from when the work was first made available to the public.
  • Films.
    Copyright expires 70 years after the death of the last to die of the following: principal director, author of the screenplay, author of the dialogue or the composer of the music created for and used in the film.
  • Sound recordings, broadcasts, cable programmes and computer generated works.
    Copyright expires 50 years after the end of the year in which they were made, released or first broadcast or included in a cable programme service.
  • Typographical arrangements of published works.
    Copyright expires 25 years after the end of the year in which the edition was first published.

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Who owns copyright?

The Act specifies who is the first owner at the time of creation or production. Copyright can be assigned by the owner to another. For example, it it is not unusual for the author of an article in a journal to assign her or his copyright to the publisher of the journal.

  • Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works: The author/creator
  • Sound recordings and film: The person by whom the arrangements were made for making the item (financier, entreprenuer, producer, etc.)
  • Broadcasts: Generally those responsible for the transmission
  • Published editions: The Publisher

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Do I own copyright in my own work?

The copyright in work produced in the course of University employment is owned by the University. The University's policy on Exploitation and Commercialisation of Intellectual Property [PDF 106.51KB] states that:

  • The University owns the intellectual property in all items whether in paper, electronic or other form created or devised by its staff in the course of their employment. The University may, where it considers appropriate, assign its rights to copyright in paper-based publication (e.g. books, articles in journals, conference presentations) to the member of staff who created them.
  • Intellectual Property, including Copyright, created by a student in the course of their studies or in connection with the work for their degrees or courses is generally owned by the student.
  • Exceptions to this may occur in circumstances where both student and staff have jointly created a work protected by an intellectual property right - the work may then be jointly owned by the student and the University.

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How is copyright infringed?

The Act grants to the first owner of copyright the exclusive right to do certain acts, called 'the restricted acts' in relation to their material. These include copying the whole or a 'substantial part' of a work, giving public performances, adapting the work and broadcasting. A 'substantial part' is not defined in the Act but has been interpreted by the courts to mean a qualitative significant part of a work even where this is not a large part of the work. Therefore, it is possible that even the owner of copyright who wishes to do any of the 'restricted acts' must obtain the copyright owner's prior permission, or be covered by an appropriate licence, or be covered by one of the exceptions in the Act.

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What can I copy?

You can copy a work if one of the following conditions applies:

  • copyright has expired
  • you own the copyright (and have not assigned that copyright to a publisher or other)
  • the copyright holder has given permission for the work to be copied
  • use of the work is governed by a licence granted by the copyright holder
  • your copy, or copies, is/are permitted by an exception in the Act.

Some relevant exceptions and licences are outlined below:

Fair dealing

Limited copying of certain works is possible under an exception known as 'fair dealing' for:

  • the purpose of research for a non-commercial purpose
  • the purposes of private study ('private study' does not include any study which is directly or indirectly for a commercial purpose)
  • criticism or review
  • reporting of current events

Fair dealing is not a legal right but it can be used as a defence. The exclusion of 'commercial' copying noted above follows a change to the law that came into force on 31 October 2003.

You can make one copy of part of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (this includes books and journals but not films, broadcasts or videos) for research for a non-commercial purpose or private study. The amount that you can copy is not defined by the Act but the extent of copying must not harm the economic interests of the copyright owner. Commonly accepted practice is that copying should not exceed:

  • a chapter of a book or 5 per cent of a book, whichever is longer.
  • one complete article from a journal issue.
  • a maximum of ten pages of a poem, short story, or other short literary work, taken from a volume of short stories or poems.
  • up to 10% (maximum 20 pages) per short book (without chapters), report, pamphlet, or standard specification.
  • one separate illustration, diagram, photograph or map up to A4 size (but, if this is an integral part of an article or chapter, it may be included in the extracts identified above).

Multiple copying of the same item is not permitted under fair dealing but is permitted under the University's licence with the Copyright Licensing Agency within certain limits.

You can copy from any type of work for the purposes of criticism or review provided sufficient acknowledgement is given. The Act does not define the extent of copying permitted but generally accepted limits are: in the case of one extract no more than 400 words, in the case of several extracts that none is more than 300 words and that the total is no more than 800 words and, in the case of a poem, up to 40 lines.

You can copy a work (but not photographs) for the purposes of reporting current events - but not if that reporting is by means of a sound recording, film, broadcast or cable programme. Acknowledgement of the source must be given.

Copyright Licensing Agency licence

The University has a Higher Education licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA). Under this licence, University staff and students can photocopy extracts from books, journals, conference proceedings and law reports, subject to the following limits and exclusions.

An extract may be no more than a chapter in the case of a book, an article from a single issue of a journal, a paper from a set of conference proceedings, or a single case from a report of judicial proceedings. Graphical images, such as illustrations, photographs and diagrams included on a page are covered by the licence.

Printed music, maps and charts, and some others types of work, are not covered by the licence. Electronic works are not covered by the CLA licence. Not all countries and publishers are covered. In particular, please note that not all United States publishers are covered. For further information, please consult the CLA Lists of Excluded Categories and Excluded Works.

Multiple copies
The CLA licence allows multiple copies of the same extract to be made within the limits given above - such as to provide each student on a course, plus the tutor, with one copy each.

What about course packs?
Course packs are organised collections of photocopies of readings for a particular course. The CLA licence covers the creation of course packs - within limits. Further information is available from the Library.

Scanning under the CLA licence

The CLA Licence also covers scanning from printed material owned by the University subject to the same limits and exclusions given above for photocopying under the Licence. Some publishers and works are excluded from scanning under the licence; please consult the CLA  Lists of Excluded Categories and Excluded Works.

Creating a digital course pack
Material scanned under the CLA licence is for use only by students registered on a course of study. Scanned extracts can be written to a CD, USB stick, or other portable storage device and distributed to students on a course or uploaded to a course module on Study Direct. Use of scanned material should be restricted to students registered on the course. Before scanning course material from published, printed material that is in copyright, please consult the technical flowchart on Checking Digitisation under the CLA HE Photocopying and Scanning Licence [PDF].

Scanning and uploading of files to Study Direct
The permission to prepare and distribute digital copies via a course collection is restricted to 'Designated Persons' under the terms of the CLA licence. All digital copies must contain a copyright notice that includes the form of words, and the bibliographic and course information, as set out in Schedule 3 of the licence. Additionally, material scanned under the licence must be recorded on the CLA record sheet for data reporting to the CLA in May each year. Please contact the Designated Person for your school if you would like extracts digitised from published or printed material for a course of study. Please note that the CLA licence does not cover copying from e-books or e-journals as these are governed by their own individual licences which do not allow electronic files to be copied and shared. It is good practice, therefore, to create a link to an e-book or an article within an e-journal rather than uploading an electronic file to Study Direct. For further copyright guidance on adding different types of material to Study Direct, please refer to the Copyright checklist for adding course material to Study Direct [PDF].

Managing digitised material
Digitised material should be deleted at the end of the course, unless required for use for the following academic year. If this is the case, please contact the Designated Person for your school so that the item details can be recorded on the CLA Record Sheet for the next reporting period.

Copying for research for a commercial purpose
Additionally, from 1 August 2006, the CLA licence covers members of the University for copying for research for a commercial purpose.

Newspaper Licensing Agency licence

The University's licence from the Newspaper Licensing Agency permits certain kinds of copying for educational (but not administrative) purposes from the national UK newspapers. It does not cover the regional UK press or foreign newspapers. For futher information about the licence for educational establishments, please visit the Newspaper Licensing Agency website.

Ordnance Survey maps

The University has a licence which permits the copying of Ordnance Survey maps. For details, please refer to the Global Studies Resource Centre.


The University has a licence from the Design and Artists Copyright Society. This covers the making of slides, subject to certain conditions. For information about this licence, please refer to the Art History Slide Library.

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What about copying electronic works?

Electronic works (such as electronic books, journals, databases, websites and software) are protected by copyright. If an electronic publication, or other electronic work such as a website, is freely accessible over the internet it is still protected by copyright.

Fair dealing in electronic works

Fair dealing applies to electronic as well as to paper works. However, you must keep within generally accepted practice for the copying of electronic works. You must not distribute such a copy to others or make it available to others without permission or a licence to do so - by uploading it to a server, for example, even if only a restricted number of people can access it. The UK Higher Education Funding Council's Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Publishers' Association have produced Guidelines for Fair Dealing in an Electronic Environment.

Licences for electronic works

The Library subscribes to many electronic resources, such as electronic databases and journals, on behalf of the University. In addition to copyright law, the use of these resources is governed by licences which the University has signed with the relevant publishers and information providers. The CLA licence does not apply to electronic works. The conditions of licences with individual publishers and information providers vary. In the vast majority of cases, a current University of Sussex staff or student member can:

  • search and retrieve items.
  • print and/or download individual items for personal use for teaching, learning and research.

In the vast majority of cases, licences do not permit:

  • downloading of the substantial part of a database or the entire contents of a publication (this would include an entire journal issue).
  • multiple copying of items that have been printed out or downloaded.
  • distributing copies to others.
  • removing any proprietary marking or copyright statement from any copy made.
  • using electronic resources for commercial purposes.

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Can I scan / digitise a print publication?

Yes. A copy may be made under fair dealing provided it is for the purpose of private study or research for a non-commercial purpose. This may include copying by means of a scanner attached to a PC, a digital handheld scanner, a digital camera or a mobile phone with a digital camera facility. However, you cannot make such a copy available to others, including colleagues or other students, without permission from the copyright owner or a licence to do so. This includes, for instance, distributing a copy by email, or uploading a copy to a shared network file store where it can be accessed by others.

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What about recording television and radio programmes?

The University holds a licence from the Educational Recording Agency which permits the recording of terrestrial television and radio programmes for the use of University staff and students for educational purposes only. From the 1st of July, this licence now covers Open University broadcasts.

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What about copying for the visually impaired?

Copying a work to a different format in order to increase its accessibility for those with a visual impairment is possible in certain situations.

Enlarged/reduced photocopying

The CLA licence permits enlarged or reduced sized photocopies to be made of up to the whole of a book, magazine or journal for use by visually impaired students, subject to the following conditions:

  • copies may only be used by visually impaired students or staff.
  • the University must own at least one original published edition of the publication being copied.
  • the publisher must be covered by the CLA licence.
  • in the case of enlargement, the publication to be copied must not be already commercially available in a suitable large print format (you can search the Royal National Institute of the Blind's Library Catalogue to check whether a publication is already available commercially in an accessible format).
  • the number of copies made must not exceed those required for the purposes of instruction.
  • copies may not be edited or bound up with any other copyright material and they may not be published or sold in any way.
  • no electronic storage or transmission is permitted.

Copying to other formats

The Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002 permits copies of published works to be made in an 'accessible' format for the use of 'visually impaired persons'. A 'visually impaired person' is defined as a person:

  • who is blind.
  • who has an impairment of visual function which cannot be improved, by the use of corrective lenses, to a level that would normally be acceptable for reading without a special level or kind of light .
  • who is unable, through physical disability, to hold or manipulate a book.
  • who is unable, through physical disability, to focus or move her/his eyes to the extent that would normally be acceptable for reading.

The definition does not encompass people with perceptual or cognitive disabilities, such as dyslexia, or those with hearing impairments. An 'accessible' copy is defined as 'a version which provides for a visually impaired person improved access to the work'. In addition, 'an accessible copy may include facilities for navigating around the version of the copyright work'. An accessible format could include a braille, audio or electronic copy of a print publication, for example. Copying of databases is excluded.

This exception is subject to a number of conditions:

  • an equivalent accessible copy must not be commercially available. You can search the Royal National Institute of the Blind's Library Catalogue to check whether a publication is already available commercially in an accessible format.
  • the original print copy must remain with any accessible versions, so that only one person can 'read' the work at any one time, as with print.
  • the accessible copy must include full bibliographic details of its source (author, title, publisher, edition) and a statement that the copy has been created under the terms of section 31A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as amended by the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002.

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Who can I ask for help?

For help with general queries about copying paper, audiovisual or electronic publications, please email Please contact the Global Studies Resource Centre for queries about the copying of maps and the Art History Slide Library for queries relating to the copying of slides. Please note that these contacts are a source of general guidance but not of legal advice.

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