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Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights

Your guide to understanding copyright law and intellectual property rights

What can be copied under fair dealing?

"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 (10% if covered under the CLA licence)
  • 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.

Copying for commercial purposes

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 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.