Skip to Main Content

Copyright: Home

Welcome Library Services Finding Resources Subject Resources Academic Skills Getting Help


Copyright is a type of Intellectual Property which protects creative works.

Creative works can be literary, dramatic or artistic works. They include, amongst other things, books, music, paintings, sculpture, films, computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings.

Copyright protects the expression of creativity by the creator. Ideas and thoughts are not protected, it is only when those  ideas and thoughts are physically expressed that they can be protected by copyright.

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, protection is automatic in the UK and no registration is required.

Generally, copyright duration is life plus 70 years, from the end of year of the death of the creator or 70 years from public availability if the creator is unknown. This can vary depending on type or age of the work and circumstances in which it was created, commonly,

Type of Work Copyright Length
Written, dramatic, musical and artistic works 70 years after death of creator
Sound and music recordings 70 years from first published
Films 70 years after death of director, writer and composer
Broadcasts 50 years from first broadcast
Typographical arrangements 25 years from first published
Person reading icon

Private Study
UK copyright law allows anyone to copy from a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work for their own private study. Copying may include, but is not limited to - printing, photocopying or scanning.  The use must be covered by fair dealing. 

While there is no legal definition of fair dealing, use should not impact the original creator’s ability to profit from their work.  Therefore, you should always only copy a reasonable proportion that you actually need and you must give a full acknowledgement of the creator and the source of the material copied.

If you only need a single chapter or a journal article from a book or journal, which is held at any UCA campus, you can request a scan for your own  personal study and research using Scan & Deliver.

Disabled Students
If you are a student with a disability, copyright law allows you to copy the whole work into a different format so that it can be more easily accessed by you.  To do this you must either own or have legal access to a copy of the original work.  If you are a disabled student with an assessed need then the Library will seek to secure a suitable alternative format for you.  For more information see - Accessible Formats Service.

UK copyright law allows you to copy and reuse a reasonable proportion of copyright work for the purposes of assessment.  Fair dealing will apply so make sure you use only what you need and always give a full acknowledgement.

If you want to reproduce an image, consider the resolution, particularly if the image can be accessed online even though it is for assessment.  A lower resolution image would not impact a creator's ability to profit from their work as greatly as a high-resolution image.

If you intend to use your assessed work beyond attaining your qualification and it includes copyrighted work, then you may be at risk of copyright infringement.  You should consider the risks and if possible, contact the copyright holder to seek permission to use works. 

Using Images
You may wish to use copyright images in your artwork, be aware that unless you are relying on a legal exception (for example, for the purposes of assessment or private study) you may need permission from the copyright owner.  Check to see if the image has a licence attached that specifies how it can be used and if in doubt contact the copyright owner. If you suspect the image is out of copyright, see if you can determine when the image was created. Tim Padfield, a specialist in copyright, devised a flowchart to help others determine if a work is in copyright.

Legal exceptions make it possible to use images for the purposes of education, subject to fair dealing.  This means you can use an image to support your argument or to illustrate a point (use should not impact on the copyright holders ability to profit from their work, for example: the image shared widely online).  Ensure you fully acknowledge the image and your sources.  For more information about referencing images see Plagiarism and Harvard Referencing.

Collages use different images to create a new work. You should check whether images you intend to use in a collage are in copyright or if they can be used under a licence.

If the images are in copyright, then consider your intention, whether you intend to use the whole or a substantial amount of an image, whether it is a small amount of the image, will the original image be unrecognisable and unidentifiable in the final work? If you intend to use only elements of an image so small as to be unrecognisable you may not need to seek permission from the copyright holder.  This will require a judgement to be made and may still carry a risk. To incorporate images in a collage, especially substantial amounts of an image, will require permission from the copyright holder.

Be respectful of the original creator’s moral rights. Use of a copyright image even a small amount may infringe their ‘right of integrity’ whereby an artist can object to derogatory treatment of their work.  This may include additions, deletions, alterations or adaptations of an original image.  The cutting up and reconstructing of a work may infringe this right.

Parody, Caricature and Pastiche
In the UK it is legal for an artist to use a limited amount of copyright work for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche -

Caricature: a picture, description or imitation of a person in which characteristics are exaggerated for comic effect.
Parody: an imitation of the style of a writer, artist, or genre with exaggeration for comic effect.
Pastiche: a work where the style is copied from elsewhere or contains a mixture of different styles.

While using work for parody, caricature or pastiche encourages creativity, the rights of copyright owners should always be respected. An artist who wants to use in-copyright work in this way should have a clear understanding of the purpose of their use and the target of the critique, at the same time minimising the amount of work directly copied and providing acknowledgements.

More information with regards to this exception can be found at the site. 

Research requires systematic and thorough investigation to create new knowledge and interpretations, and outcomes are usually published externally.  The research and publication process often require a different approach to using copyright materials.

Research Outputs
Researchers are required by the University to publish their research outputs to the University's research repository - UCARO.  However, researchers retain any copyright in scholarly activity.

Research students are asked to deposit their thesis in digital format.  Following assessment theses are published in the University's research repository - UCARO and to the British Library’s collection of UK theses - EThOS.  As the author you retain the copyright.

Using images in your Thesis
If you intend to include images in your thesis then you need to remember that not only will it be assessed but it will be published.  Therefore it is essential that if you are using copyrighted images that you clear these for publication purposes as well as assessment.  First establish if the image is in copyright, if it isn't clear, the following agencies may be useful to search - 

If the artist is represented by an agency, then you will need to seek permission from the agency to use an image of their work before publishing.  If you have checked and can’t trace any commercial licence, then it may be possible to rely on the legal exception - criticism, review or quotation.  In which case you must ensure the following has been satisfied, the image -

  • has already been made available to the public.
  • has been used appropriately within the context of the thesis.
  • genuinely being used for the purposes of criticism and review.
  • is sufficiently acknowledged.
  • consider reproducing the image in medium resolution so as not to adversely affect the sales of the original.

Quoting a small extract from a published work is unlikely to infringe copyright, it will be defensible under the quotation exception providing your use comes under fair dealing. This would mean -

  • work you are quoting from has been previously published.
  • you quote no more than is required for a specific purpose.
  • use is genuinely for the purpose of quotation.
  • you include full acknowledgement.

If you intend to quote a substantial extract from a copyright work, then you will need to gain permission from the rightsholder. In UK law there is no definition of how much is ‘substantial’, it will always require a judgement and be a matter of fact and degree (a few sentences from taken from a long novel are unlikely to constitute a substantial part but a few lines of poetry might).

If you are writing for a publication, it is worth checking if they have a word limit for quotations where you do not have the rightsholders permission.

Contract icon

Gaining Permission
If you do need to identify and contact the copyright owner, you will most likely be contacting a Photographic Library, Agency, Museum, Gallery or Publisher.  These organisers will have systems in place whereby you can use the image for a fee.  The fee will vary from place to place.  Be sure to specify the rights required and the context in which the material will be used.  Other resources that may be useful in tracing a rightsholder are as follows -

Be aware that when asking the rightsholder for permission to reuse work you will most likely need to negotiate a fee and/or accept certain terms and conditions. This fee and agreement will depend on your intended use (whether you intend to copy the whole work or an extract, the size of the audience you will distribute the copy to, who will make money from your copy, whether the copy will be distributed under an open licence). That said where copying material is likely to raise the profile of the creator then the rightsholder will likely to be keen to grant permission.  Right clearance can take some time so ensure you have left plenty of time before the deadline.  

Orphan Works
Orphan works are where the materials are protected by copyright but where no copyright holder can be traced or is unknown. This is not something that should be just assumed, steps should be taken to find the copyright holder. If after a diligent search has been made and no rightsholder found, then you can apply for permission to declare the material an orphan work. The UK’s Intellectual Property Office has an online application form you can complete,

Tutor icon

Ownership of Teaching Materials
The University owns the copyright in any teaching materials developed for the purposes of curriculum delivery.  However, the copyright of scholarly activities including research, books, book chapters, journal articles, conference papers, exhibitions, creative works, and other related activities, belongs to the creator.

Using Third-Party Materials in Teaching
If you are using teaching materials which you have not created you need to check if they are in-copyright.  If they are then check if the materials can be used under a legal exception, by licence or by permission.  Further information follows about teaching materials and keeping legal  - 

It is permissible to copy and reproduce in-copyright work for the purpose of giving or receiving instruction. This may be in a presentation, on white boards, in lecture notes or handouts.

The use for the purpose of giving and receiving instruction must be considered fair dealing.  While there is no legal definition of fair dealing, use should not impact the original creator’s ability to profit from their work.  You should only copy a reasonable proportion and give a full acknowledgement.  Access should be limited to specific cohort (not published on the web) and for a limited time only.

Unit Reading Lists
The University holds a CLA licence which permits the Library to digitise extracts (1 chapter or 10%) from books or journals and publish these to unit reading lists.

To make a request add the required book or journal to the appropriate unit reading list and then select 'Request digitisation' and enter chapter details or article information.  Requests are usually fulfilled within 5 working days and will appear in the Reading List. If you require assistance using reading lists contact your Liaison Librarian.

All scanned extracts have OCR applied so they are accessible for students who rely on screen readers and other assistive technologies.

The CLA licence also allows you to make multiple photocopies from publications for the purposes of teaching subject to the same limits indicated above. The number of photocopies must be limited to one copy per student enrolled on a course.  Not all publishers are included in the CLA Licence nor are musical scores (including lyrics).

Be mindful of whether you can share your own published work with your students, this will depend on the terms of your agreement with your publisher. If in doubt add the book or journal to your reading list and request a digitised copy.

Studio Teaching
Teaching staff can play recorded music or screen a film or TV programme or perform music or drama as part of an educational activity without infringing copyright.  The University has various online databases where staff and students can access films, TV programmes, radio and music for use in teaching and research.  The library also holds DVDs which contain an extensive range of films and documentaries which can be shown.

This does not extend to inviting a non-University audience to a performance or a screening or charging a fee, nor does it permit non-educational usage such as showing a film or playing music at a student society club event or an open lecture.  In which case you would need to obtain a licence from the appropriate agency such as Filmbank or PRS.

Online Teaching
It is possible to copy an extract from a commercially distributed film for upload to myUCA under the legal exception for illustration for instruction. Use must be fair dealing, meaning you should only copy a reasonable amount and give a full acknowledgment of the creators.  For more information please contact the Digitisation Team in the Library via

The University holds an ERA Licence which covers the use of most TV and radio programmes for educational purposes.  An extensive collection of TV and Radio programmes is accessed via Box of Broadcasts (BoB), programmes can be embedded in myUCA and new programmes requested.

Occasional copying from newspapers is permitted under the University's NLA licence, this covers electronic and print editions - 

  • newspaper, covering the nationals, over 1,400 regional and foreign titles
  • selected magazines, including specialist titles
  • newspaper and magazine websites

To check a newspaper can be copied under NLA licence use the Title Search tool.

The NLA licence must not be used for systematic, commercial nor archival copying, nor can copies be shared externally; and where possible it is expected to link to the newspaper website rather than distributing photocopies.

If you are teaching a student with a disability, copyright law allows the whole work to be copied into a different format so that it can be more easily accessed.  To do this you must either own or have legal access to a copy of the original work.  If you have a disabled student with an assessed need then the Library will seek to secure a suitable alternative format for them.  For more information see - Accessible Formats Service.

Using copyright materials in a recorded lecture is likely to be covered by a legal exception - illustration for instruction or criticism and review, however this would be for a specific student cohort only, and subject to fair dealing - material used would need to be in context and fully acknowledged.

The audience must also be made aware if the event will be recorded.  If any personal or sensitive data is to be recorded within the lecture, then written consent must be obtained from the participant or the data removed following the recording.

Visiting lectures are also abound by UK copyright laws - they should make sure they are either relying on an exception, a licence or have permission to use in-copyright materials.  Materials should always be used appropriately and proportionality and fully acknowledged. 

Visiting Lecturers at UCA will have been asked to sign a consent form to agree to being recorded as part of their contract. Recordings are to be kept for internal use only. 

The audience must also be made aware if the event will be recorded.  If any personal or sensitive data is to be recorded within the lecture, then written consent must be obtained from the participant or the data removed.

Seminar speech icon

If a lecture is open to the public then it may not be possible to justify by legal exception or an educational licence the use of third-party in-copyright materials.

If you are delivering a public lecture for a conference or an event, then you should consider if educational legal exceptions - illustration for instruction or criticism and review - could be used as a defence when reproducing any in-copyright materials; including factors such as whether the event is commercial or if the audience will pay to gain entry.  In all cases - third party content should be used carefully and always acknowledged with the creator’s name, date of creation and source.  Before using music or film content in a public lecture you should check whether a licence is required and if necessary obtain the appropriate permission.

You should decide well ahead of time whether the Public Lecture will be recorded and made available afterwards.

If you intend to make a recording of the event and publish this online, you will need to obtain written consent from the guest speaker.  Consent can be given in print or email, but you should retain written consent for as long as you intend to have the recording publicly available.

The audience at any public lecture should be made aware if the event will be recorded.

Once the lecture has been recorded you will need to upload it to Panopto and then complete a Public Lecture Request Form. Once submitted the Library will seek to make the recording available online and accessible externally.

You, as the creator of work, are the first owner of copyright unless you have assigned the copyright to someone else.  If your work was commissioned or created whilst employed, the copyright may belong to the commissioner or employer, check the terms of any contract.  If others were involved in the creation of a work, then joint copyright ownership would usually exist.

UCA students retain the intellectual property rights to all work created during their studies unless they have agreed otherwise.  Students do however grant the University a royalty-free, non-exclusive, unchangeable, worldwide licence to use their work for the purposes of education, marketing and otherwise promoting the University.

Protecting your work
A key factor to consider when thinking about protecting your work is to keep any ideas confidential. Be careful who you share ideas with, until they are expressed and made into something tangible, they are not protected by copyright.

If you decide to share your own work online, you should still be protected by copyright, though others may be able to use your work under limited legal exceptions. It is strongly advised that you read the terms and conditions of any social media platforms you may be using to see what rights you are assigning.

If you perform or speak in front of an audience, nobody has the right to record or distribute a recording of your performance without your consent unless covered by the terms of your employment, whereby the organisation may also own the copyright to any recording made.

Although copyright protection is automatic, once something tangible has been created, you may choose to add a copyright statement or the © symbol alongside images of your work to deter infringement.  Although it is not a legal requirement, displaying a copyright statement can demonstrate you are aware of copyright and take infringement seriously.

In the UK copyright protection is automatic and although it is not necessary to register your copyright, there are services that will register evidence of when work was made, by whom and the content. This can assist in a dispute to help prove ownership but isn't legally required.The UK Copyright Service is an example of this type of registration service.

Publishing your work
Always carefully check the terms of any publishing agreement so that you understand what rights you retain.  Some Publishers will ask you to transfer your copyright in return for royalties.

If you do not have to transfer copyright, you may be able to negotiate to retain the right to distribute your work to students or research colleagues.

Most scholarly publishers do allow authors to deposit a version of their work in an institutional repository.  For more information see - Open Access Publishing.

Creative commons logo

Licensing your work
As a creator you may want to consider assigning a licence to your work. Creative Commons Licences can be used to inform others about how they can reuse your work.  Creative Commons Licences work alongside existing copyright.

When licensing your images - choosing a licence will depend on the nature of the images and the intended use.  There are many types of licences for images (including Creative Commons) but some common types include -

  • Rights managed - rights managed licensed images tend to only permit the images to be used once and the terms are particular to the use.
  • Royalty free - allows a buyer to purchase an image and use it in a broad range of ways without needing to pay an additional free time they use it.

A trademark is a type of intellectual property and protects a brand. Trademarks or logos can be a name, design or even a colour. Creating a trademark does not automatically protect a brand, it must be registered. Although a creative trademark or logo are automatically protected by copyright as an artistic work. Trademark registration lasts 10 years and can be renewed for a further 10 years provided it is still being actively used.

Patents is a type of intellectual property that allows the creator to protect new, original inventions by registration. A patent for a new, original idea/invention is granted to the creator, giving them rights to stop others, for a limited period, from making, using, or selling the invention without permission.

Design Rights
Design rights are another type of intellectual property and applies to the shape and configuration of objects. Design rights protect any aspect of shape or configuration of design, though not surface decoration. Three dimensional designs are automatically protected in the UK for up to 15 years; this can be extended to a maximum of 25 years if registered and renewed every 5 years.

Liaison Librarians
Liaison Librarians work with students to help ensure they have the knowledge, skills and confidence to use library and information resources appropriately.  For more information about the Liaison Librarians and to book a tutorial see - Liaison Librarians.

Useful Resources in the Collection