These web pages provide a basic introduction to some of the issues concerning copyright and intellectual property which you need to be aware of in your day-to-day work as academics, students, researchers and support staff. It is by no means comprehensive but is intended to serve as a starting point.

Click on the link to the copyright notice which should be completed and appended to all items uploaded to MyAberdeen under the CLA licence. 

Copyright videos for academics

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a statutory right of ownership of an intellectual property (written, printed, graphic, electronic or performance). Copyright law, as laid down in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 (c.48) (CDPA), protects the rights of creators by stipulating the extent to which copying can be undertaken so that their right to benefit financially from their works is not endangered through excessive copying or re-use. Copyright law also outlines the scope and extent to which works can be copied or re-used.

Copyright affects anyone who creates or uses original material for any purpose; teaching, research or studying and all staff and students at the University of Aberdeen must ensure that any use they make of copyright material complies with the terms of either copyright law or is covered by the various licenses held by the university.

The Copyright Designs and Patents act was recently amended, with the changes coming into force in June 2014. The advice and information given on these web-pages has been updated to reflect these changes. The Intellectual Property Office has published a series of guides detailing the effect of the changes. These are a selection of the available guides.

Useful Links

There are many useful sources of information on copyright in general and in specific aspects of copyright. You may find the following links useful:

What is Covered?

The main categories of works currently protected in the UK include:

  • Original literary works such as novels or poems, journal articles, letters, tables, lists and webpages
  • Typographical arrangements (ie the layout or actual appearance) of published editions
  • Original dramatic works such as opera, musical theatre dance or mime
  • Original musical works, ie the musical notes themselves
  • Original artistic works such as graphic works, paintings, drawings, photographs, jewellery, sculptures, maps, plans, blueprints and technical drawings
  • Sound recordings
  • Films
  • Broadcasts
  • Computer programmes and databases
  • Crown Copyright
  • Parliamentary Copyright
Copyright FAQs

What material can I upload to MyAberdeen?

Go to our Copyright and the VLE pages for detailed information on uploading material. See also

How much can I copy?

Copying for the purposes of research or private study can be undertaken under the “fair dealing provision of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act. The extent of copying that may be undertaken has not been expressly stated, but are generally accepted to be:

  • 5% or one chapter from a book
  • 5% or one complete article from a journal issue or set of conference proceedings

Copying for teaching purposes is covered by the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Photocopying and Scanning Licence. This Licence permits the making of multiple copies from a wide range of printed material subject to the limits shown below.

  • one whole chapter from a book
  • one whole article from a journal issue
  • a short story or poem (not exceeding 10 pages in length) from an anthology
  • one whole paper from a set of conference proceedings
  • one whole report of a single case from a volume of judicial proceedings
  • or 5% of any of the above, whichever is the greater

Can I copy articles from a newspaper?

The University holds a Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) Licence which permits the photocopying of articles, but not photographs or advertisements for teaching and management purposes. The licence covers the major UK national daily and Sunday papers.

Can I include copyright materials in a thesis?

Short quotes or passages of no more than 400 words may be included in a thesis or dissertation without having to obtain permission of the rightsholder. All such quotes should be fully acknowledged. The use of longer extracts, photographs, charts etc. requires the permission of the rightsholder. It is the responsibility of the candidate to obtain permission, and it is advisable to keep copies of all correspondence with the rightsholder(s).

What is the situation regarding Crown Copyright Material?

Government and other official publications are covered by copyright, however in following a review in 1998, it was decided that in the interests of transparency and open government, copyright would be waived for certain categories of material. This means that crown copyright materials can be reproduced or copied without requesting formal permission to do so. Any materials used must however be reproduced accurately and not in a misleading context, and the source must be fully acknowledged. Full details of the categories of material covered by the copyright waiver are available on the HMSO website

Can I photocopy and distribute copies from a chapter/book/article I have written?

Works you have authored are likely to have had their copyright assigned to the publisher who then own the rights to the publication. Any permission to further re-use the work beyond the limits of the law or a licensing scheme will be detailed in the agreement between the author and publisher.

Is it possible to use copyright material in an examination question?

The use of copyright material for examination purposes is now covered by the Fair Dealing exception. The amount used should be the minimum required for illustrative use. You may also be able to rely on the new quotation exception, for example where you wish to reproduce a piece of text for analysis in an English exam. This would not extend to the making of a reprographic copy of a musical work for use by an examination candidate when performing the work.

May I scan an item that has been obtained as an inter-library loan item for inclusion in MyAberdeen?

The CLA Higher Education Licence permits the copying or scanning of materials which are owned by the library, or which have been obtained as a copyright-paid copy. Any items requested as standard inter-library loans are for the purpose of research or private study only and cannot be scanned or photocopied for use by others. If the library does not hold a copy of the item you require, you will need to specifically ask for a copyright-fee paid copy.

May I use newspapers in the course of my teaching?

Articles from newspapers may be used in a classroom setting, and, provided the extent of the material used is such as can be considered as “fair dealing”, may be reproduced for use in a powerpoint presentation.

May I use content from Free-to-view websites?

Free to view websites are covered under the Higher Education Licence which means that you may print materials from some free to view websites without the risk of copyright infringement. As a general rule of thumb, no more than 10 A4 pages can be printed from any free to view website.

When downloading materials from free-to-view websites, it is recommended that you provide students with a link to the homepage of the website and then give them directions as to where the materials you want them to access is to be found.

If an image is downloaded from an overseas web-site that is later used in a manner that infringes copyright, which area of jurisdiction applies to any subsequent legal action?

Copyright infringements are dealt with under the jurisdiction of the country in which the infringing action took place. Copyright protection of images is applied in the country in which the images were generated, but as most countries are signatories to the Berne Convention which grants reciprocal copyright protection, they would also receive protection in the country in which they were used. It is illegal to download materials from overseas websites into the UK which, had they been copied in the UK, would have infringed copyright.

Is it illegal to link to someone’s web-site page without their permission?

Provided you do not pass off someone else’s content as your own, it not illegal to provide a link to another website, although good practice normally dictates that permission to link should be sought. Any such links should be to the home page, and “deep-linking” to other pages within a site should be avoided.

If however instead of linking to a web-site, text was copied and re-used, then a copyright infringement would have occurred, even if the source was acknowledged. Any re-use of text or images from a web-site can only be done with the express permission of the copyright owner, and only where the purpose for which you want to use it has been agreed.

How do I find out who owns the copyright in a work?

Published works usually include a copyright notice giving details of the copyrightholder(s). Where there is no copyright notice, it may be possible to contact the owner for advice on who holds the copyright. For journal articles, it may be possible to use a bibliographic database to track down the author’s most recent work, where you should be able to source their contact details.

You can also try the WATCH (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders) online database which contains the names and addresses of copyright holders or contact persons for authors and artists whose archives are housed, in whole or in part, in libraries and archives in North America and the United Kingdom.

What happens if it is not obvious who owns the copyright in a work?

The creator of a work is not necessarily the rights-holder, so it may be necessary to investigate further. This situation is likely to arise where:

A work was created in the course of a person’s employment, in which case the employer is likely to be the copyright holder.

The original creator of the work may have assigned the copyright to another person or institution (e.g. J.M. Barrie bequeathed the rights to Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street hospital) although original copies of the actual work may reside elsewhere. This is particularly true of artistic works.

Where the copyright owner for a work is unknown or cannot be traced by reasonable means, the work is deemed to be an “orphan work”. Any use of such works beyond that covered by statutory exceptions e.g. fair dealing, is considered to be infringing. It is now possible to obtain a licence to use orphan works for both commercial and non-commercial use in the UK. Before such a licence is granted, the applicant will be required to demonstrate that they have made a reasonable effort to trace the rightsholder. Guidance on what constitutes a diligent search is available from the Intellectual Property Office

I’ve been asked to supply an electronic reprint of an article I’ve written. Is it acceptable to supply a pdf copy of the final published version?

This will depend on the agreement you signed with the publisher. In many cases you will be able to supply copies of the final corrected proof but not the publishers pdf.

Can I link to a book chapter free on the web that was then never actually published?

You may provide a link to the web-site hosting the chapter but you may not make any further use of the material is it will be deemed to be an unpublished work, therefore not covered by the CLA licence. If however the copyright rests with the author, they may grant you permission to use the material.

An academic has told me that they have waived their copyright so it is OK for me to scan in a number of chapters from their co-authored new book?

This will depend on who actually owns the copyright in the book – normally it will be the publisher (check the copyright statement - usually found on the reverse of the title page.) If the publisher owns the copyright, then, provided they are included in the CLA Included Publisher List, the one chapter or 5% rule will apply.

Can I scan a chapter from my own copy of a book?

In general the answer to this would be no, but recent changes to the law have introduced a greater degree of flexibility in the interpretation of what constitutes an “institutional copy”. Previously, the law stated that you had to use a “library-owned” copy, however the wording has now been changed to “institutionally-owned” copy. As the scope of the term “institutionally-owned” has not been defined, there may be room for manoeuvre in terms of whether the book had been purchased through central or departmental funds.

Academics may not however use inspection copies or proof copies supplied by publishers, and we would recommend that if in doubt, a copy of the book should be ordered for the library and this copy used to create the scan.

An exception does exist in cases where the library owns a copy of the book, but this has been defaced. In this case, an academic may use their own copy to create a “clean” scan.

I have a copy of a book not currently held by the library. Can I donate this to the library and then scan a chapter from it for MyAberdeen?

The short answer is yes, provided the book is held within the library's collection and included in the library catalogue.

How Long?

Different Classes of material enjoy differing periods of copyright protection.

In general:

  • All literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works covered for a period of 70 years following the death of the creator or in the case of multiple authors, the death of the last surviving author
  • Copyright in a published edition lasts for 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published
  • Films are protected for 70 years following the death of the last to die of the author of the screenplay, the composer of the musical score used in the film or the director of the film
  • Sound recordings, broadcasts and cable programmes are covered for a period of 50 years from the year in which they were originally made, first released or broadcast
  • Databases are protected for a period of 15 years following the most recent major revision
  • The rules for copyright in unpublished works (e.g. typescripts or manuscripts) are more complicated, but generally speaking the author’s copyright is protected for at least 70 years after death and rests with the author. Copyright in unpublished works is not protected by the Copyright Licensing Agency

Further information on the exact duration of copyright periods for individual classes of works can be found on the Intellectual Property Office website or the Copyright Licensing Agency.

Finally, orphan works – items such as books, paintings, films, photographs, music, performances etc. in which copyright exist but where one of more of the copyright owner cannot be traced. These works can only be copied with the permission of the owner, or by purchasing an orphan works licence from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The only exceptions are for non-commercial research or private study or news reporting, and are subject to fair dealing. The licensing scheme grants permission for a period of seven years for a licensee to carry out acts for commercial or non-commercial purposes that would otherwise infringe copyright.

Separately, a recent EU Directive on certain permitted use of orphan works provides an exception to allow cultural institutions to digitise written, cinematic or audio-visual works and sound recordings and display them on their websites, for non-commercial use only.

Fair Dealing

‘Fair dealing is an exemption prescribed under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 which allows individuals undertaking non-commercial research to make a single copy of specified portions of copyright work without the permission of the rightsholders. In this context, "Fair dealing’ is a legal term used to establish whether a use of copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright. There is no statutory definition of what degree of use constitutes fair dealing, each case will be decided individually depending on the amount, context and circumstances of usage. The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work?

The fair dealing test has now been extended to cover copying of non-textual works eg: illustrations and photographs and copying by any form of reproduction is now permissible. It is a condition of the fair dealing exception that works used must be appropriately acknowledged.

Fair dealing for research or private study

A certain amount of copying is permitted for the purposes of research or private study. Although the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act does not define the exact amount which may be copied under fair dealing, the generally accepted limits as defined by the Society of Authors are as follows:

  • Up to 5% or one article from one issue of a journal ( even if the issue contains only the one article)
  • Up to 5% or one chapter (whichever is greater) of a book or similar publication
  • Up to 10% of a short book of up to 200 pages
  • Up to 5% of an anthology, or one poem or one short story up to a maximum of 10 pages
  • Up to 5% or one report of a single case from a report of judicial proceedings
  • Up to 5% or one paper from a set of conference proceedings

Fair dealing for illustration for instruction

A limited, but undefined amount of material can be reproduced to illustrate a teaching point subject to fair dealing. This provision now also covers the setting of examination questions. In this context, to be accepted as fair dealing

  • usage must be the minimum required to make the point.
  • the use must be non-commercial
  • the source must be attributed unless it is impossible to do so, ( e.g. in an exam situation.)
  • copying must be carried out by a person preparing, giving or receiving instruction.

Fair dealing for criticism, review or quotation

Limited amounts of material may be reproduced for the purposes of criticism, review or quotation.

  • usage must be the minimum required to make the point
  • the source must be attributed
  • usage must be fair to the rights holders - use should not prejudice the rightsholder's ability to profit from the work
  • applies to all media, not just text (would be difficult to argue use whole photo is "fair" to rights holders)

The Society of Authors advises that there is no need to seek permission to use "short extracts" provided that these are used specifically in the context of "criticism or review" and not just to embellish the text. The material should have been published, usage should be restricted to the minimum required for the critique or review, and the source must be acknowledged.

Guidance from the Society of Authors suggests that quotes from prose (fiction or non-fiction):

  • should not exceed 400 words
  • or a total of 800 words in a series of extracts, none exceeding 300 words.

quotes from poetry:

  • should be no more than 40 lines from a poem, providing that this does not exceed a quarter of the poem.

Poetry does not include song lyrics, which are not covered by fair dealing.

Points to consider when deciding whether an extract from any work you plan to use is likely to fall within the provision of fair dealing are:

  • the length and importance of the extract
  • the amount quoted in relation to your commentary
  • the extent to which your work competes with the work quoted.

These provisions cover works which are currently in copyright. These limits do not apply to anything that is out of copyright.

Fair dealing for parody, caricature and pastiche

Limited amounts of material may be copied for the purposes of parody, caricature and pastiche. The useage must be fair to the rights holders and this exception cannot be overridden by contract.

Fair dealing for text and data mining

Material can be copied for the purposes of text and data mining.

  • complete copies can be made.
  • must have lawful access to the material copied, e.g. open access material, or access by paid subscription
  • the source must be attributed
  • this exception cannot be overridden by any contracts
Moral Rights

In addition to the protections afforded by Copyright Law, the author or creator of literary, musical, film or artistic works also benefit from moral rights in their work. These rights protect the reputation and integrity of the authors and their work. Moral rights include:

  • The right to be identified as the author of the work when the work is published or performed
  • The right to object to derogatory treatment of their work. This may include alteration, mutilation and having significant parts removed or added
  • The right not to be falsely attributed with the work or to have a work falsely attributed to them. This right lasts for 20 years after the death of the author

Moral rights, which are normally of the same duration as the rights in copyright, cannot be bought or sold nor assigned to another party, for example a publisher may be the copyright holder in a work, however, the author will still retain the moral rights in that work, and these rights may be transferred to the owner’s estate when they die. In addition, moral rights are not granted automatically and must be asserted by the author.

Exemptions to the attribution of moral rights exist in the cases of copyright materials created by an employee in the course of their work. The employer retains the moral rights unless they choose to allow the employee to claim them.

Moral rights cannot be claimed in respect of computer programmes and computer generated work, similarly, reference works such as encyclopaedias and dictionaries which are normally compiled by groups of authors, are also exempt.

With regard to privately commissioned photographs, where copyright is normally held by the photographer, the moral rights in commissioned photographs rest with the subject(s) of the photograph. This is important as the photographer must first seek the permission of the subject(s) before publicising or exhibiting the photograph.