As a researcher you are likely to want to copy information from books, journals and web resources to support your research. You may also want to include this material in your thesis or when publishing your research. The work you produce and publish will also be protected by copyright.
Fortunately, there are some exceptions under the current law that allow you to copy for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study within reasonable limits, under what is known as 'fair dealing'. This generally permits you to make single copies of small amounts of a copyright work.
The exception for research and private study applies to all types of copyright work, and to recordings of performances of works. Importantly, it cannot be overridden by contract. This means that any term of a contract will be unenforceable to the extent that it tries to prevent or restrict copying that is permitted under the exception.
However, fair dealing for research and private study is allowed only if:
1) The purpose of the use is non-commercial research and/or private study
2) The use of the materials is fair
3) The use is made by researchers or students for their own use only
4) Researchers give credit to the copyright holder
1) The computational analysis must be for the purpose of non-commercial research
2) The copy is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgment (unless this is practically impossible)
The provision further specifies that copyright is infringed if the copy made is transferred to another person, or it is used for purposes different than those permitted by the exception (although the researcher could ask the owner for permission to do either of these things). Also, copies made for text and data analysis cannot be sold or let for hire.
Importantly, the provision states that the activities covered by the exception cannot be ruled out by contract. Contractual terms which purport to restrict or prevent the doing of the acts permitted under the exception are unenforceable.
Although text and data analysis is mainly concerned with mining literary works, the exception covers all categories of copyright works, and a parallel exception applies to recordings of performances.
Fair dealing is a UK law which allows exceptions to copyright law if less than a substantial part of third party material is used for criticism, reporting, or research and private study, however what is classed as insubstantial or insignificant portion is not specified by law, and varies on a case by case basis. It also looks at how the use of material affects the market for the original work, which will vary depending on the material, publisher and use in the thesis.
For example: Two lines of a book may be insubstantial, but two lines of a haiku are almost the whole text. A film still may only be a fraction of the whole film, but if it depicts the climax of the film it would be a significant piece of material and could dissuade people from buying the original film. Third party material used in theses should be assessed on a case by case basis.
Once you have established who to contact you can use the template contained in Appendix 1 of the following guide as a basis of a letter or e-mail to the rights holder, asking permission to include the material in the electronic version of your thesis.
Please note that while students are being asked to make best efforts to seek permission to include third party copyright material in the electronic version of their thesis you will not be penalised if it is not possible to gain permission, either because permissions are not granted, or because it would either be too onerous or too expensive to obtain permissions. The outcome of your examination will not be affected in any way. No student will be required to make any payments to copyright holders for material they wish to include in their thesis. Also note that a different 'fair dealing' exception applies to the use of copyright material for the purpose of examination.
If the proportion of a work that you want to include is more than what is 'fair dealing', or your intended use is not covered by the exceptions above, you could use open licensed materials.
Creative Commons licenses provide a simple, standardised way to give the public permission to share and use creative work, given certain conditions. As you do not need the permission of the copyright holder in order to use materials covered by a CC license, it is recommended that you use these materials wherever possible. You must abide by the conditions of the particular license.
More information about the different kinds of CC licenses is available on the Creative Commons website.