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Copyright for students from the Information Services and Library Team

What is Copyright?

What is copyright?
Copyright is the legal protection given to the creators of certain kinds of original works. It gives them the exclusive right to copy, issue copies, rent or lend, perform, show, play, communicate the work to the public or adapt the work, and the right to stop others from doing any of these things without their consent. These are known as economic and moral rights. Anyone who infringes that right by copying a protected work without the permission of the copyright owner can be sued for damages. 

Copyright comes into existence automatically as soon as a work is created without any need for registration. If the work was made in the course of employment, copyright is owned by the employer unless a contract specifies otherwise.  Publicly available does not mean the work is copyright free. Free content you find on the web does not mean the work is in the "Public Domain" this term has a specific meaning in copyright. 

As copyright is a type of property right it can be sold (‘assigned’) or leased (‘licensed’) in the same way as other forms of property. Copyright may therefore belong to someone other than the author of the work. Additionally a work may have different copyright holders - for example for the text and the illustrations. 

Who owns Copyright?
 As a student of the University, you will own the copyright in your work. In the workplace, unless there is a contract to the contrary, your employer will own the rights to your work. Go to the UK Copyright Act

What is protected?

The creative works protected by copyright:

  • Literary works – books, novels, journal articles, poems, song lyrics, newspaper articles, user manuals, software, databases, exam papers
  • Dramatic works – opera, ballet, screen plays
  • Musical works – musical scores but the lyrics which are considered literary works
  • Artistic works – paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, maps, diagrams, architecture
  • Film – reproducible moving images such as cinema films, home videos or DVDs of television programmes
  • Typographical arrangements – a published edition of a literary, musical or dramatic work. It protects the layout and design of a publication.
  • Broadcasts – transmitted images sound or information that can be received by members of the public
  • Sound recordings - recorded original songs, advert or film soundtracks, instrumental music

When does copyright expire?

How long does copyright protection last?
Copyright protections lasts for a specified length of time only and this length varies depending on the type of material produced. Usually this is:

  • For a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work usually 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died.
  • Copyright in a sound recording, broadcast and cable programmes expires 50 years from the end of the year in which it was made.
  • Films are protected for 70 years after death of the last to die of the director, the author of the screenplay/dialogue or the composer of the music created for and used in the film.
  • Copyright in a published edition/typographical arrangement expires 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.

Material published on the web is covered by copyright - unless explicitly stated otherwise.

Copyright free?

Out of Copyright - Public domain
Once the copyright period has expired (and you have verified this) you can copy and use it as you want without needing the permission of anyone. However you should ALWAYS acknowledge the author and the source of the material you use and DO NOT pretend that it is your work. To do so is to commit plagiarism and it applies to both ‘out of copyright’ work and ‘in copyright’ work. Always include your source acknowledgement in BOTH the main text of your work AND any bibliography. 

Copyright is waived
You may find a copyright statement on the website or attached to the work saying that the content may be used for educational purpose. Do not presume - if in doubt ask. 

Creative Commons licence
The work may have a Creative Commons Licence - this is a sharing licence that encourages the sharing of materials and depending on the licence the adaptation of the work. Attribution may or may not be required. There are a wide  range of CC licences - see this page for further details..

Using copyright material

Copyright Exceptions
UK law uses copyright exceptions to allow you to include portions of copyright material for your assessed work without the permission of the copyright owner. The copyright exceptions: Illustration for instruction and Criticism, review, quotation and news reporting require you to apply the  "Fair dealing" judgement. 
The Fair Dealing concept is not defined in the legislation, is is a matter of judgment. You must ensure that:

  • The purpose of the use is non-commercial. "Non-commercial" is not defined, but is believed to rule out any copying for direct or indirect commercial advantage.
  • There should be sufficient acknowledgement of authorship and title of the work. This is vital to avoid the charge of plagiarism
  • The use of the material is fair - in terms of its impact on the copyright owner.

N.B. In the USA they have "Fair use" which is not quite the same. What is permissible in the US may not be in the UK.

Third-party copyright images which are integral to your academic work may be legally defensible under the exceptions mentioned above. Again you must always properly cite the source and use no more than is necessary to make you point. 

Restrictions - you as a student

What you can and can't do
Do not make scans or photocopies of content or take PDFs from our subscribed databases and pass them on to others. They are only for your personal, non-commercial use. You may provide links to databases/websites to others but those outside the School may not have a access to our subscribed resources.

You may provide more than one copy of your work for your tutors, or to share with fellow students when working jointly - but not to anyone else outside your immediate educational setting.

Using Information Services & Library resources in Experiential Learning projects
The School’s licences for databases and e-journals are heavily discounted on the basis that they are used for academic research purposes only. They prohibit use in connection with any commercial activity, and this includes Experiential Learning projects where you will be working on a real-world business challenge on behalf of your client. Accordingly, your client has been advised that they are expected to provide you with the data necessary to successfully complete your project.

See this page for more information


Avoid plagiarism

Plagiarise: "to copy (ideas, passages of text, etc) from someone else’s work and use them as if they were one’s own."  Chambers 21st Century Dictionary, © Chambers Harrap Publishers Limited 2001

It is vital that you learn to use information from other sources without committing plagiarism. Your work must show that you have read and understood the main theories and arguments surrounding your topic (or gathered the appropriate data) and are able to use this information appropriately through the correct attribution of the words and ideas of others and the use of appropriate and consistent referencing techniques. See: Research Guide: Referencing.

In order to avoid plagiarism you need to be methodical throughout your research. You need to:

  • record all sources consulted
  • take thorough notes; record the details: title, author, date, edition, pages
  • record the full details (URLs and dates accessed) of the material accessed on the web
  • learn to paraphrase correctly and allow time to incorporate accurate references in your essays
  • test your understanding

Plagiarism101 explains it well.  N.B. the School uses Turnitin but is is not available to students to check their own work,