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Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights: Using other people's work

Copyright: the basics

"Fair dealing" is an exception under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act which allows a certain amount of copying for purposes of "research or private study". Very briefly, "fair dealing" is understood as:

  • A chapter of a book, or 5% of a book, whichever is the longer
  • One complete article from a single issue of a journal
  • A maximum of ten pages of a poem, short story, or other short literary work, taken from a volume of short stories or poems
  • Up to 10% (maximum 20 pages) of a pamphlet or report.
  • One separate illustration, diagram, photograph or map up to A4 size. However, if the illustrations form an integral part of an article or chapter, they may be included as part of that extract

You may also copy from any type of work for the purposes of criticism or review (e.g. in an essay, article or thesis) provided that you acknowledge the source. The Act does not define the extent of copying permitted in this case but the generally accepted limits are:

  • In the case of one extract, no more than 400 words
  • In the case of several extracts from a single work, that none of them is more than 300 words long, and that the total is no more than 800 words
  • In the case of a poem, up to 40 lines

Although not established in law, it is generally accepted that the principle of fair dealing applies to electronic works as well as to printed works. However, any copies made must be for personal use, and should not be distributed electronically (e.g. by uploading onto a server) or as printed copies without permission from the copyright holder. The UK Higher Education Funding Councils' Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Publishers' Association have produced guidelines on the use of fair dealing in the electronic environment. The guidelines can be found on the JISC website.

Changes to copyright law 

Struck gold? Just because an image is available online, it doesn't necessarily mean you can use it. Find out more about using images in your work. Discover what our Special Collections hold using CollectionsCaptured.

B.O. Holtermann (2nd from left), Richard Ormsby Kerr (centre) and Beyers (2nd from right), with reef gold from Star of Hope mine, 1871-1875 / American & Australasian Photographic Company

B.O. Holtermann (2nd from left), Richard Ormsby Kerr (centre) and Beyers (2nd from right), with reef gold from Star of Hope mine, 1871-1875 / American & Australasian Photographic Company. Flickr Commons/State Library of New South Wales: no known copyright restrictions.

Most materials, including books, plays, journal and newspaper articles, artistic works, films, music, computer software, and typographic arrangements, are protected by copyright law, governed principally by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and subsequent regulations.

Students and staff of the University should be aware of the issues involved. This affects -

  • Photocopying or scanning or digitising
  • Creating course packs from photocopied chapters or articles to give to students
  • Using audio / video material for teaching, presentations or course work
  • Saving or printing material from electronic resources e.g. e-journals or databases
  • Using quotations or abstracts from other works in essays, projects and theses

For details of which material is covered by copyright see the UK Intellectual Property Office

Intellectual Property Office

Under current UK law, copyright material can be copied freely and without limit in certain circumstances:

  • Copyright on the work has expired
  • You own the copyright on the work
  • With explicit permission of the rights-holder

You may also make copies of limited amounts of individual works under 'fair dealing', or according to a specific licence agreement, such as the University's CLA Licence.

Copyright exists to protect a creator's rights, but does not last forever.

  • Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works are protected for 70 years after the death of the author
  • Typographic copyright is 25 years from publication
  • Sound recordings are protected for 50 years after they are published or performed
  • Photographs, official publications and unpublished works have different rules

Under UK Copyright Law, copying for commercial purposes is not allowed under "fair dealing".

'Commercial' is to be understood as 'directly or indirectly income-generating' according to theJoint Note from the British Library (BL) and the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) which summarises acts of 'commercial' copying as below:

"The following cases would clearly count as commercial copying:

  • Research relevant to R&D [research and development] in a commercial company
  • Market research or competitor intelligence in all organisations
  • Searching for legislation and regulations for a commercial company
  • Research relevant to R&D where results will be passed to a commercial company for commercial use
  • Work done by an information broker for clients"

This has implications for academic staff and students who are sponsored by commercial companies, who work with spin-off companies and who undertake research on behalf of private clients (e.g. medical research for private health clients).

The University's CLA Licence covers copying for the purpose of the University's commercially-funded research.

"Copies made for this purpose can be supplied to:

  • Members of an HEI's research team (e.g. staff / postgraduate students); and
  • A third party organisation wholly (or partly) funding the research"

This applies to partnership agreements only and does not allow for copying for companies who sponsor studentships/fellowships/placements etc.

Please note: Inter-Library Loan requests for commercial purposes are subject to an additional copyright fee. Contact our ILL Team for further information.

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Copyright and teaching

The University holds a number of licences which permit staff and students to reuse copyrighted material for the purposes of teaching, learning and assessment. 

Academic staff creating course packs and teaching materials should use the information collated here for guidance and contact the Learning and Teaching Development Service with any copyright-related queries.

The Licence permits extracts from most books, journals, periodicals, conference proceedings and law reports. There are some restrictions - check the CLA excluded categories list.

It is important to be aware that the copies must be made from either:

  • An original of the book, journal or magazine owned by the HEI or
  • A copyright fee paid copy of a chapter / article supplied by an organisation holding a document delivery licence with CLA (e.g. British Library)

Please note that Musical Scores (printed music, including the words) are not covered by the CLA Licence. The Music Publishers Association provides further information and links.

If a particular combination of photocopies and / or digital copies made available under the CLA Licence had an adverse impact on a student's decision to buy one or more textbooks for their course, this would be considered by the CLA to be textbook substitution. It is in conflict with the principles of non-substitution set out in the Licence.

To ensure you are meeting the requirements of the Licence, see the CLA and UUK Good Practice Guide.

The Library offers a library resource Scanning service for academic staff, under the terms of the CLA Licence.  This makes articles / book chapters owned by the University available online to students through reading lists on Blackboard.   Library staff will make all the necessary checks to ensure that the resources scanned comply with the terms of the CLA Licence.

The Licence permits scanning of extracts from printed books, journals and magazines which are owned by the University (not personal copies) and which are not in their lists of excluded categories or works excluded from scanning.

Generally, the limits on the amount of any individual work that may be photocopied or scanned under the terms of the CLA Licence are the same as those that apply to "fair dealing", but our CLA Licence now allows up to 10% of the total publication.

If the work you want to copy is excluded from the Licence you must seek permission from the copyright holder - usually the author or publisher.

Details of scanning undertaken by the University under the CLA Comprehensive Licence must be recorded and submitted annually to the CLA via the CLA Licence Co-ordinator (Head of Customer Services, Newcastle University Library).

If you have any questions about the service or a particular request please contact:

Full details of what can and can't be copied or scanned can be found in the CLA User Guidelines to the Comprehensive Licence.


Newcastle University holds the CLA Comprehensive Licence, which allows us to copy from digital content published by CLA’s Participating Digital Material Publishers (see the current list of these publishers). It additionally enables institutions to download and store content, and to print out multiple paper copies, from this repertoire.

Any paper copies printed out may be retained by the students for whom they were made.

Institutions can copy from content they own or subscribe to, whether this consists of a whole publication or individual chapters / articles supplied on a ‘pay-per-view’ basis.

With the Comprehensive Licence, there is no need to check individual publishers’ terms and conditions each time you wish to copy digital content – CLA’s blanket terms and conditions apply. Where the CLA Licence is more generous than a publisher’s own primary agreement, then the terms and conditions of the former can be exploited. For example, if a primary licence agreement does not permit an institution to download and/or print out a chapter that constitutes more than 5% of the total publication, the CLA Licence will enable this. The CLA licence allows copying of up to 10% of the total publication.

The Licence removes any uncertainty over instable links, and may facilitate easier access for students – particularly those studying remotely via a Distance Learning course (ie those students whose course is based in the UK but who live overseas).

The CLA, however, no longer include Overseas Campus and Partner Institutions in their Fee calculations. This means that scanned readings cannot be made available to these students. It is an issue of concern to many HEs and the CLA has now agreed to discuss the situation again with the rightsholders.

Clarification from the CLA:

Unlike overseas Distance Learners – whose study is done directly and remotely with a UK institution - the Licence has never actually referenced students studying at overseas campuses. This omission was probably not much of an issue when the Licence was originally drafted (some years ago now). The issue was raised at various meetings with UUK and publishers with both agreeing that it was never the intention to provide this sort of coverage, and certainly CLA currently has no mandate from its rightsholders to provide it. We drew HEIs' attention to this non-coverage about a year ago when the User Guidelines were revised. 
However, we appreciate that times have changed and that they will continue to do so. CLA appreciates that universities are keen to do the right thing, and would like to advise as follows (point 3 may be of particular interest).

1. CLA has not revised the terms of the Licence, which is always agreed jointly between CLA and UUK/GuildHE.
2. Following our meeting with UUK/GuildHE last month, CLA accepts that the coverage of students based at overseas campuses of UK universities is something that now needs to be fully addressed, and we will approach our rightsholders with a view to including in the new licence from August 2013.
3. CLA has already communicated to the HE sector its recognition that there is some uncertainty around this issue on the part of universities, but insofar as this activity is not covered by the Licence, CLA would not seek in this respect to penalize any universities with overseas campuses pending a new and revised Licence.
4. As agreed with UUK/GuildHE, since the introduction of the HESA Aggregate Offshore Record CLA has been removing students reported under Item 2 for invoicing purposes.

Clarification as sent to lis-copyseek mailing list October 2012


ReCap is Newcastle University's event capture system which allows you to record the audio and visuals (e.g. PowerPoint slides) from lectures / presentations and make them available online (e.g. through Blackboard / VLE / website) for your students and other staff.

Newcastle University owns the copyright to all the teaching materials you produce in the course of your employment here and these can be recorded unless you opt out. The full policy details explain what is automatically scheduled and how to opt out if preferred. You can check and cancel bookings online.

If you use copyrighted materials belonging to third parties in your lectures / presentations (e.g. images, cartoons, diagrams, graphs, films) then these cannot be included in your recordings unless:

  • You have explicit permission from the copyright holder(s) in writing
  • You have used openly licensed content (e.g. materials available under a Creative Commons licence which allows reuse and redistribution)

You can use out-of-copyright materials but the onus is on you to ensure their out-of-copyright status. Beware of photographs of out-of-copyright materials or new editions - these later works may be copyrighted.

Contact the ReCap helpline for advice if unsure.

ReCap logo

If you are developing e-learning materials, whether for Blackboard or other Open Education Resource (OER), and you are intending to use third party materials then you must consider the legal implications of this, for yourself and Newcastle University.

Please note: if you are a rights holder and are concerned that you have found material on Newcastle University's website (or legitimately under our name elsewhere) for which you have not given permission (and which is not covered by a relevant exemption) see our Notice and Takedown Procedure.

Any member of University staff who receives a takedown request or message regarding copyright infringement should forward all details to immediately.

Where journal publishers offer downloadable slides to embed into PowerPoint, it is possible to use these slides in your teaching if you check the permissions of that publisher first. 

You can use the CLA check permissions tool to search for specific journal title and it will show the permissions available to Higher Education institutions with a CLA licence. 

If you need to amend or annotate the slides (e.g. make the font larger or add your own annotations to diagrams) you are covered by the most recent ‘fair dealing’ exception to copyright which permits:

"A general “fair dealing” exception, allowing copying of works in any medium as long as the following conditions apply:
1. the work must be used solely to illustrate a point;
2. the use of the work must not be for commercial purposes;
3. the use must be fair dealing; and
4. it must be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.”

You need to acknowledge the source in full on your slide, using the citation requirements of the specific publisher.

Creative Commons logo

Creative Commons provides free, easy-to-use licences for copyrighted materials. Adopting a Creative Commons licence for your work makes it easier to specify what people can and can't do with it. This standardised approach to reusing and repurposing materials promotes sharing and makes it easier to search for reusable content.

Creative Commons licences are human and machine readable, making it possible to search for materials made available under a particular licence.

For example, find reusable images through Flickr, videos through YouTube (after searching select Filters > Creative Commons) or music through Jamendo (click on Advanced Search). Look for the symbols to see which licence applies to the work.

Creative Commons licences allow you to label your work as "Some Rights Reserved" instead of "All Rights Reserved". The rights you retain and those you give to others are expressed through the Creative Commons licence you choose.

For example, the CC BY (Creative Commons Attribution) licence "lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials." It is recognisable by this symbol.

Creative Commons Attribution Licence



Notably for academic staff and researchers, the RCUK's Open Access policy now mandates that research made freely available through the payment of an Article Processing Charge (APC) should be available under a CC BY licence. Other funders are following suit.

The issue of licensing Open Access research outputs has been addressed by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee's Inquiry into OA. See the response from Creative Commons, explaining the CC-BY Licence.

Creative Commons try to make it as easy as possible to Choose a Licence but there are also considerations to bear in mind.

The  University holds an ERA Licence which enables the recording off-air of programmes broadcast by various terrestrial TV and radio stations.

Before you request or make a recording, check to see if the programme you require is available via Box of Broadcasts
Box of Broadcasts provides access to over two million programmes from over 65 TV and radio channels, including most of the UK's freeview network, all BBC TV and radio content from 2007, and several foreign language channels. You can view archived programmes, record new ones, and create clips and playlists. We recommend viewing the short video tutorials to help you get started. This resource is not available outside the UK.



The NLA Educational Licence covers copying from UK national daily and Sunday newspapers plus several regional newspapers.

The University's Press Office handles all queries regarding the NLA Licence. Please contact Kath Wade in the first instance.

NLA logo

The Open Government Licence is a means by which Crown Copyright materials and public sector information can be reused under certain conditions.

Developed by The National Archives, the OGL enables public bodies to license their information in a consistent way, akin to theCreative Commons CC-BY Attribution Licence.

To reuse Crown Copyright and public sector information look out for:

  • A clear statement indicating that the information is licensed under the OGL
  • A hyperlink to the appropriate OGL
  • The attribution statement required when reusing and citing the information

See further Guidance for Users.


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