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Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights

Your guide to understanding copyright law and intellectual property rights

What is copyright?

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

As a general guideline to copyright in the UK:

  • Where the author of the work is known, literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works created after 1 August 1989 are in copyright for 70 years after the death of the author. Where these works have multiple authors, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the last surviving author.
  • Where the author of the work is unknown, works created after 1 January 1969 are in copyright for 70 years after creation, or 70 years after the work was published, if within 70 years after creation.
  • Crown copyright relates to all material produced by civil servants, ministers and government departments in the course of their work. The default licence for most Crown copyright is the Open Government Licence

The length of copyright for older works, and for different types of work such as broadcasts, sound and music recordings, and film and television recordings is subject to varying factors and exceptions. Contact us if you would like further advice.

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.

UK copyright law changed in 2014. Below is a handy series of booklets outlining the key changes for various sectors, including education.