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Copyright: Exceptions and Licences

Exceptions to copyright allow you to make limited use of copyright material without the permission of the copyright owner in some circumstances and within certain limits. 

When making use of an exception to copy part of someone else's work, you must sufficiently acknowledge their work with an appropriate attribution.

The practical applications of these exceptions for your day-to-day work are explained in the Copyright for Students/Lecturers/Researchers tabs.  This page offers further detail on their implementation. 

Exceptions explained

There are exceptions to copyright law to allow people with physical or mental health disabilities the equality of access to copyright protected materials. This means that the person with the disability, or someone acting on their behalf, can make copies of a work in an accessible format. 

This might include:

  • Making large-print versions of books available. 
  • Providing a braille version of an article.
  • Adding subtitles to a film or television broadcast.
  • Creating an audio description of television or film broadcasts.
  • Adapting copyright protected works so they are accessible to people with dyslexia.

Aberystwyth University provides a full range of accessibility services.

This exception is provided by Sections 31A-F of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Under the terms of fair dealing you are permitted to make copies of limited extracts from copyright works for private study or research of a non-commercial nature. The important point to note here is that you must be legitimately studying. This means, for example, following a recognised degree course at university.

This exception is provided in Section 29 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Text and data mining is a research method used for analysing large bodies 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.

This is exception is provided in Section 29A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Providing that it is being used within the limits of fair dealing and for non-commercial purposes, a limited reproduction of copyright material is allowed for teaching purposes, with the proviso that it is always sufficiently acknowledged.

For example, a couple of lines from a novel projected onto a classroom whiteboard to illustrate a point is acceptable use. 

Works such as plays, music or dance, can also be shown or performed for educational purposes within an educational setting but the audience must be limited to teachers, students and staff that are directly linked to the educational establishment. 

This exception is provided in Section 32 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

You may use a limited amount of copyright material for the purposes of parody, caricature or pastiche. As with the other exceptions outlined on this page, it must be done within the limits of fair dealing. A few lines from a song or from a film as part of a comedy sketch, for example, is likely to be acceptable use. Modifying a graphic image for the purposes of satire or social commentary is also likely to be acceptable. It is NOT acceptable to use an entire work in any parody, caricature or pastiche.  

This exception is provided by Section 30A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Within copyright law, there is an exception that allows archivists to make a copy of any work within their archive for the purposes of preservation providing that the following two criteria are met:

  • That the work is held permanently within the archive.
  • That it is not practicable (within reason) to purchase another copy of the work

This exception is provided by Section 42 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

To be fair...Fair Dealing explained

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

Some examples of what might be considered as fair dealing are:

  • using a short quotation from a text in a slide during a lecture or seminar
  • using a limited number of sound or film clips to illustrate a point in a lecture or seminar
  • distributing a short extract from a book for students to use in a lecture or seminar


As a guideline to what constitutes fair dealing, ask yourself: will the amount of a copyright work that I am using impact on the copyright holder's commercial rights?

Some examples of actions that are not fair dealing may include (but are not limited to):

  • Copying images and putting them onto a departmental website.
  • Playing music prior to the start of a lecture or seminar for the purposes of entertainment rather than instruction, without permission from the copyright holders.
  • Using an extract lengthy enough that it could be considered as being an alternative to purchasing the text.

In essence, if you are using more of a copyright owner's work than is necessary for a given situation, then you might be breaching the guidelines on fair dealing.


The University subscribes to licences issued by several agencies acting on behalf of various rights holders. In return for the licence fee, which goes towards payments to rights holders, the institution may copy and utilise certain materials within set guidelines.

It is essential to recognise that these licences relate solely to use within the context of educational or instructional purposes. They do not cover the publishing of works, the further broadcasting of material nor its public performance.

License What it covers How it works
Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) photocopying or scanning of works held by the University for educational purposes. Request a chapter or article is digitised through Aspire Reading Lists
Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) photocopying of articles from some national and regional newspapers. Links and copies of articles from newspapers can be shared among staff and students provided license terms are followed
Educational Recording Agency (ERA) recordings from UK TV and radio broadcasts Use recordings of TV and radio broadcasts in teaching/study/research using university Box of Broadcasts access

An author or creator might be happy to allow others to use their works under certain conditions. A popular way of doing this is by using a Creative Commons (CC) license. 

A copyright owner may apply use a CC license to openly share a copyright work but place restrictions on commercial use or adaptations or require any adaptations to be licensed on the same terms.  There are a range of Creative Commons licences which permit varying degrees of reuse. 

The below image shows what you can do with Creative Commons licensed material.  For information on applying a Creative Commons license to your own work, see Protecting Your Own Work.

Creative Commons Licenses

JoKalliauer; foter, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Quick Links

Quick facts

Photograph of a textbook printed in Braille (double-sided).

Legislation allows for the provision of accessible formats of copyright works for people with any sort of disability. This includes, but is not limited to, large-print, braille, captioned, or audio versions of a work.

Image: Basilio Briceño, CC-BY-2.0 Generic

Columbia Copyright Office, advertisement from the New York Clipper, 1906

This 1906 advert contains some good advice but remember: Copyright is automatic.

You don’t have to register or pay for copyright of your work. 

Image: Columbia Copyright Office, advertisement from the New York Clipper, 1906 (from Wikimedia Commons, in the Public Domain)

Under the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, ‘fair dealing’ allows the limited copying of copyright material for research and private study. You’ll be pleased to hear that copying technology has moved on! 

Image: Stewart, Francis, War Relocation Authority photographer, Topaz, Utah. Rose Nakagawa, former student from San Francisco, California, now works as a mimeograph operator..., 1943, from Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Protecting your work

Copyright protects your work from being used without your permission and allows you to profit from it. And it means you don’t have to lock your books away in a cage! 

Image: Winifred Lao, Protected Books, Morgan Library, CC BY-SA 4.0