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Copyright: Copyright for Researchers

Researchers will often need to include copyright materials from third parties in their theses or research outputs.


Copying in the library for research

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.
  • Students studying away from Aberystwyth due to COVID restrictions can request scanned extracts of materials only available in print format using the temporary Chapter Digitisation service.

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

Using e-resources provided by the library for research

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 for research

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.

Research methods

When developing your research and gathering data, you may decide to use a methodology that has previously been used.  Keep in mind that research methodologies (such as survey materials) may be copyright restricted.

If you intend to use survey materials developed by others in your research, you should check any Terms of Use statement.

Data and databases

When using data or a dataset produced by someone else it is important to remember that while facts cannot be copyright protected, databases can be protected by copyright or database rights.  When using any database or dataset produced by someone else in your research you should check its license and its conditions.  

Text and data mining

Text or data mining is a research method used for analysing large bodies or collections of text or data.  Copyright law has been amended to allow this mining for research purposes.  This exception applies provided your research is non-commercial, you have lawful access to the content/database (for example through a library subscription), you attribute the sources and do not use copies made under this exception for any other purpose.

Further guidance

The Intellectual Property Office has developed a guide to help understand the key issues when using copyright material in research. 

Using copyright material in your thesis

You will almost certainly include work by third parties in your theses.  A copyright exception allows you to do so under the principle of fair dealing which includes quotation, criticism or review.  For example, you may quote from and discuss extracts from a book, journal article, photograph or other image. 

When using any 3rd party material in your thesis you should apply the ‘fair dealing’ test.  The third party work must have been made publicly available, you must acknowledge the creator of the work, and your use must be fair and reasonable. 

In order to check whether your use is fair and reasonable, you should ask: 

  • Am I using more of the work than is really necessary for the purpose?;  
  • Could I be damaging the interests of the copyright owner by reproducing their work in this way?. 

If you think the answer to either of those questions may be ‘yes’ then you should consider seeking permission. 

Aberystwyth Research Portal


Successful PhD candidates are expected to submit an electronic version of their works for inclusion within the Aberystwyth Research Portal, and this subsequent publication of their work is not covered. 

Therefore, those submitting PhDs are, in any case, expected to seek appropriate permission for inclusion of third party copyright material in their work, or otherwise highlight those instances where permission has not been sought or granted so that relevant action can be taken (e.g. an embargo placed on that work). Short quotes, small tables etc would not normally require permission, but clear and accurate acknowledgement of the source should always be included.

Sharing your own work

Scholarly networks such as ResearchGate and allow authors, researchers and academics to upload copies of their own work for use by others.  However, as stated in the Terms of Use of these websites, it is the responsibility of the user/author/researcher to confirm that they have the appropriate permission to do so before uploading work to any such service and should check their Agreement to Publish with their publisher.  Even though you are the author of a work, copyright may lay with the publisher and sharing without permission may constitute copyright infringement.

Key concepts

A copyright owner has exclusive rights over a copyright work.  This means that their permission is needed before using their work in certain ways.

Only copyright owners have the right to authorise activities known as restricted acts.  These include:

  • Copying
  • Issues copies to the public
  • Renting or lending
  • Publicly performing
  • Electronically sharing work to the public
  • Adapting

In undertaking any of these activities, you should ensure that you are covered by an appropriate license to do so, or that a copyright exception applies to your activity.  To see what this means for your work at the university, see the Copyright for Students, Lecturers and Research tabs for practical guidance on using copyright materials in your work in a legally compliant way.

Key facts

  • Copyright protection is automatic - works do not need to be registered
  • Copying any copyrighted material without permission (or an appropriate license) is illegal
  • Licences and exceptions allow you to copy material within certain limitations

Many of the copyright exceptions which apply in higher education depend on the concept of fair dealing

There is no precise definition of what is fair, but it depends on:

  • the proportion of the original that is copied, and
  • whether the copying competes with a use the owner might make

This means you should:

  • never copy more of a work than you need for your purpose, and always within the indicative guidelines
  • never reproduce a work in a way that interferes with the exclusive rights of the copyright holder

Quick links

Help & Support - Researchers

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 details on library service, collections and support for researchers visit our Researchers Library Guide