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Copyright: Copyright for Students

As a student you are likely to want to make copies of other people’s work for study, research or revision and you will often need to include quotes, extracts or illustrations in your assignments. Under the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, ‘fair dealing’ allows the limited copying of copyright material for research and private study.  This guide explains how this is relevant to your activities as a student and how make sure you use copyright materials in a legal and ethical way


Copying in the library
Under the terms of fair dealing you are permitted to make single copies for private study or research of a non-commercial nature.  Copies must not exceed 5% of a work or:

  • One complete chapter of a book;
  • One article per issue of a journal or set of conference proceedings;
  • Up to 10% (maximum of 20 pages) per short book (without chapters), report, pamphlet or Standard Specification;
  • One poem or short story (maximum of 10 pages) from an anthology;
  • One separate illustration or map up to A4 size (but illustrations which are an integral part of articles/chapters may be included in categories 1 and 2 above);
  • Short excerpts only from musical works (not whole works or movements) and no copying for performance purposes.

This exception is covered in section 29 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Using e-resources provided by the library
Electronic resources (such as e-books, articles from e-journals or other e-resources) are licensed by the library for your use in study or research, but you are not allowed to distribute or share them online.

Using material found on the internet
Copyright protection applies to material found on the internet in the same way as published books or journal articles.  Just because material is freely available online does not mean that there it is free to use in any way you like. 

Recording lectures

Most lectures are recorded and made available to you for revision.

Your lecturer or module co-ordinator will be able to provide information as to what lectures are being recorded and how to gain access to them via Blackboard.

Copyright material in assignments.
A copyright exception allows you to quote from copyright works in your assignments.  For example, you may quote from and discuss extracts from a book or journal article in an essay, but you must acknowledge the authors or creators of all works you use to avoid plagiarism and Unfair Academic Practice.  To find out more about referencing and citing sources correctly, see the Referencing and Plagiarism Awareness guide.

The exception is covered in section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Using images in your assignments, dissertations or theses
it is a common misconception that all images on the Internet are free, but they are not. The law of Copyright still applies to this type of material.

If you use images to in your assignments, it is recommended that you use your own photographs or free/open content that has been specifically made for reuse.  When using free-to-reuse images you should still credit the creator and follow any licensing terms.

It is sometimes necessary to reproduce copyrighted images in your assignments (particularly in studying art, theatre, film or history).  In doing so, you should:

  • Make sure the image is fully attributed
  • Make sure the image is essential to your assignment and not just for decoration
  • Not make the work publicly available (e.g. on a website)

Television, film and radio

You can use clips from broadcast media (or from YouTube) in presentations or in-class activities provided the clips come from a legal source and have been uploaded with the consent of the copyright holder.  It is your responsibility to check this.

Box of Broadcasts (BoB) is a valuable resource for television, film and radio.  It is recommended that you use BoB to find clips for use in teaching activities and assignments.

The use of small sections of printed maps in your assignments is permitted.  If using maps from online sources such as Digimap or Google Maps, you should check their licences and terms of use.

A copyright exception exists which allows the provision of copyright work in an accessible format for users with any type of disability.  For example, print materials can be digitised or screen reading software provided to change format from text to audio for the personal use of that user. 

The exception is covered in section 31A-F of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. 

The full range of services, equipment and facilities available can be found at the Information Services Accessibility page.

Key terms

Copyright infringement is the sharing or copying of a copyright work without permission of the copyright holder.  For example: it is illegal to share a copyright work such as a film or television programme online.

Plagiarism is passing off someone else’s work as your own or not sufficiently acknowledging the sources used in your work.  For example: copying a friend’s essay, or buying an essay online is plagiarism.

Help & Support - students

If you need assistance with library collections or services, contact the Subject Librarian for your department

Further information on services and resources for your studies can be found at the Library Guide for your subject. 

For guidance on attribution, referencing and citation, visit our Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism Guide.