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Copyright: Students - what you need to know

Essential copyright information for staff and students at Plymouth University

Why you need to know about copyright

Copyright protects your work and stops others from using it without your permission. But - this also means that you may not re-use others' work freely.

Unless copyright in the material has expired, the material is free to use, you own the copyright, or permission has been received directly from the rights holder, you cannot legally copy anything created by someone else. Luckily there are 'exceptions' to copyright law and something called 'Fair Dealing' which allow individuals to re-use limited amounts of copyright material under certain circumstances. 

What can I copy?

Fair dealing for non-commercial research and private study

Although the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act does not clearly define the amount of original material that can be copied, the following is accepted practice:

  • one article from any one issue of a journal (even if that one article is the whole issue).
  • one chapter or up to 5% (whichever is greater) of a book or similar publication.
  • up to 10% of a short book of up to 200 pages.
  • one poem or short story of up to 10 pages from an anthology; or
  • the report of one case in law reports.

You may make a copy for yourself or make a single copy for another person. Fair dealing does not cover the making of multiple photocopies, which can only be done under licence (if you are a member of staff), or with the permission of the copyright owner.  It applies to literary, dramatic, musical, artistic or typographical works, not just text-based works.

Fair dealing for criticism, review or quotation

You may reproduce limited amounts of material for the purposes of criticism, review or quotation. You must:

  • use only as much as is needed to make the point.
  • attribute the source.
  • the use must be fair to the rights holders.
  • this applies to all media, not just text.

Fair dealing for parody, caricature and pastiche

  • You may reproduce limited amounts of material for the purposes of parody, caricature and pastiche. The use must be fair to the rights holders, and this exception to copyright law cannot be overridden by contract.


If you quote, paraphrase, or copy anyone else's work, then it must be referenced and acknowledged to avoid academic plagiarism.


Further support and information

Links to re-usable material

We have compiled a list of links to free-to-use material, under subject headings. Remember that it is still your responsibility to make sure that the content is available for re-use, and that you adhere to any terms and conditions that may apply.