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Almost all the learning resources that you use as a student will be covered by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You need to understand the basics of copyright so that you obey the law, avoid plagiarism, and know how to protect your work.

Fortunately, there are 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.

Copyright for students - who owns what?

Copyright exceptions

Copying for private study and research

Copyright allows making single copies or taking short extracts of works when the use is made for non-commercial research or for private study. The purpose is to provide students and researchers broader access to copyright works. There is no exact definition of what is considered a 'fair' amount, however below is some guidance on what would be considered fair:

  • One article in a single issue of a journal or set of conference proceedings, or a single law report;
  • An extract from a book amounting to one chapter
  • A whole poem or short story from a collection, provided the item is not more than 10 pages;
  • One separate illustration or map up to A4 size;
  • Short excerpts only from musical works (not whole works or movements). No copying is allowed for performance purposes.

Copying for criticism and review: quoting others’ work

There will be times when you wish to include, or make reference to, material which is not your own (i.e. which is someone else’s copyright) when completing an assignment. It is legitimate to include quotations for the purposes of criticism and review, but you must make sure that such material is properly acknowledged or cited.

Shorter quotations of a few words or sentences may be used to illustrate a point, but not to replace using your own words. These must also be correctly acknowledged. See our guides on referencing for more details.

How much can I copy?

This institution holds a licence with The Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd (CLA) that, subject to terms and conditions, permits the copying and re-use of extracts of text and still images from printed books, journals and magazines, and from digital publications including some free-to-view and subscription websites

What can I copy?

The Licence covers most printed books, journals, and magazines published in the UK, plus many published overseas and a large number of digital publications

How much can I copy?

Up to the following may be copied under the Licence:

■ One whole chapter from a book

■ One whole article from a journal issue

■ One short story, poem or play (not exceeding 10 pages in length) from an anthology

■ One whole scene from a play

■ One whole paper from a set of conference proceedings

■ One whole report of a single case from a volume of judicial proceedings

Or 10% of the total publication, whichever is the greater