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Digitisation and Copyright: Copyright

What is Copyright?

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is designed to protect the creator of original work from either moral or economic exploitation. It prevents anyone other than the copyright owner copying, publishing, adapting or performing a work, except under special circumstances.

Copyright prevents individuals from doing the following without the owner's permission:

  • copying a work

  • distributing copies of it, whether free of charge or for sale

  • renting or lending copies of a work

  • performing, showing or playing a work in public

  • making an adaptation of a work

  • putting it on the internet

The Library, digitisation and Copyright

Library staff are permitted to scan and digitise items in University libraries under the terms of the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Higher Education Licence. 

To summarise, the CLA licence:

  • allows the creation of digital copies from originals which are either owned by the University, or from a copyright fee paid (CFP) copy of a chapter / article supplied by an organisation holding a document delivery licence with CLA e.g. the British Library

  • allows scanning of (whichever is the greater) up to 10% or one chapter of a book or one article of a journal issue

  • allows scanning of items to be available to students on a course of study

  • allows scanning for educational purposes only

  • does not allow blanket scanning or commercial onward use (scanned copies are not intended to substitute primary purchases)

  • covers UK and some US publications (and some other International Territories) - further exclusions are listed on the CLA website. 

Only designated Library staff are authorised to digitise material for reading lists. The CLA licence requirements must be met which does not permit anyone else to digitise.

Compliance will be monitored.

The copyright symbol ©

An item does not have to have the © copyright symbol applied for registering copyright. The symbol is not required to protect one's work. Protection of copyright is automatic upon the creation of the work. 

How much can be digitised?

The proportion of a work that can be digitised consists of either 10% or (whichever is the greater):

  • one chapter of a book

  • one article of a a journal issue

  • one paper of one set of a conference proceedings

  • one report of a single case from a report of judicial proceedings

  • one short story or one poem or one play of not more than 10 pages in an anthology of short stories, poems or plays


The information contained on this page is provided as a guide to copyright.  It is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Who owns the copyright?

The creator of a work usually owns the copyright of that work. However, like any form of property, copyright can be bought, sold, inherited or leased. In the case of a book, the author will usually be the rights holder, though they may grant an exclusive licence to the publisher to publish the book. Alternatively, the author may sell their copyright to the publisher. This means that some or all of the economic rights may subsequently belong to someone other than the first owner.

How long does copyright last?

How long copyright lasts depends on the type of material. Copyright generally exists for a period of 70 years following the death of the work’s author. 

The following table illustrates the duration of copyright.

Type of Material

Duration of Copyright

  Literary and Artistic Works

  •   70 years from death of the author.
  •   If several authors then 70 years following death of the last surviving author

  Dramatic & Musical Work

  •   70 years from publication, if there is no author named.

  Sound Recordings

  •   70 years from recording and performance rights


  •   70 years from the last to die: director, producer, author of screenplay, composer of soundtrack


  •   50 years from the date of the broadcast

  Typographical Layout

  •   25 years from publication

  Crown Copyright

  •   125 years from publication but subject to a waiver

  Unpublished works made before

  1 August 1989

  •   Copyright expires on 31 December 2039

What is covered under the copyright licence?

The CLA's High Education Licence covers library staff to digitise chapters from books and articles from journals and make them available to students.  The licence doesn’t cover everything but its repertoire is very wide and it covers most things published in the UK as well as many works published overseas.

Personal Responsibility

Digitisation procedures are regulated by the CLA Higher Education licence which authorises only designated individuals to obtain and/or create scans of chapters and articles.

These designated individuals are the library staff within the digitisation service who offer professional scans and ensure compliance by checking for any copyright restrictions, adding mandatory bilingual copyright notices and keeping records and reports as stipulated by the licence.

Please note, if you upload any material to BlackBoard and/or Aspire, you are responsible for its compliance and you will be liable for any subsequent penalties should any material be found to be non-compliant during an audit by the CLA.

Copyright Guidelines

Click on the above picture to read the user guidelines of the Copyright Licensing Agency's Higher Education Licence 2019-2022.