Copyright for...

Copyright for...

For research and private study you may:

  • photocopy limited extracts from books, journals, and newspapers, and, following the recent changes to the law, from other categories of copyright work such as sound recordings, films etc. but only for private study and non-commercial research. This new exception is not subject to a contract override which means that you can copy without needing to check a license agreement e.g. for an electronic resource. However, it is subject to fair dealing.

Under fair dealing you may also:

  • scan limited extracts from books, journals and newspapers for private study under fair dealing, as long as you don't make multiple copies or put them on a shared network drive
  • download or print for private study limited extracts from e-books, e-journals and other text-based or image-based electronic resources. NB Under the terms of their license, some publishers of electronic materials may allow you to print or download a greater proportion of the material than is permitted under fair dealing.
  • scan and digitise items where you own the original copyright, or where you have the permission of the copyright owner
  • make a single copy of anything for the purposes of examination/inclusion in a thesis or dissertation although any copyright material should be removed if the thesis is subsequently published.

Quick links

For educational purposes, you may:

  • photocopy limited extracts from books, journals, and newspapers, under fair dealing
  • scan limited extracts from books, journals and newspapers, under fair dealing, as long as you don't make multiple copies or put them on a shared network drive
  • download or print limited extracts from e-books, e-journals and other text-based or image-based electronic resources
  • scan and digitise items where you own the original copyright, or where permission has been granted to you by the copyright owner
  • download audio and video items where you own the original copyright, or where permission has been granted to you by the copyright owner.

When submitting an electronic thesis or publishing a thesis, you may:

  • include insubstantial extracts of third party copyright material under fair dealing as long as you include a proper citation/reference. The exact length of quote considered to comply with the “fair dealing” exception has not been stipulated, however as a general rule of thumb, single quotes of up to 400 words or multiple quotes from one source totalling 800 words, with no single quote exceeding 300 words, are generally deemed to be acceptable. All quotes used under this exception must have been previously made available to the public, i.e., by means of commercial publication. Quotes from theses or other unpublished work can only be included with the rightsholder(s) permission.
  • include more substantial extracts provided this is for the purpose of criticism and review or the reporting of current events. The amount you include must not exceed the minimum that is necessary for this purpose. To qualify for the criticism and review classification, the material quoted must be accompanied by a discussion or assessment.

Further information about preparing an electronic thesis is available in the thesis deposit declaration and checklist form which has to be submitted to the registry together with your thesis. Click to download the Thesis deposit declaration and checklist form.

Getting permission to use copyright material

If you want to copy more than would be permitted under fair dealing or under the terms of a university-held licence, or if you want to use materials for something other than educational purposes, you can only do so with the permission of the copyright holder (if the work is in copyright). Determining the copyright status of an item and tracking down the copyright holder can take a considerable amount of time. You will firstly have to find out whether or not the item is still in copyright (see What is Covered? on the Copyright page)

If the material is in copyright, you will need to locate and contact the copyright owner(s) to ask permission to use their work.

Locating a Copyright Owner

1. Identifying the owner

Usually the copyright owner of a published work can be identified from the information given on the back of the title page. The author of a book (or their estate if the author is deceased) is usually the copyright holder whereas for journal articles the publisher of the journal will be the copyright holder rather than the author of the individual articles.

For anything published within the last 25 years, the publisher also owns the copyright of the typographical layout. You will therefore need the publisher’s permission if you intend to photocopy or scan a text, even if the author has been dead for a considerable time.

The copyright in images included in a published work or on a webpage is often not owned by the copyright owner of the accompanying text. The copyright details are usually shown beside the image, or listed separately elsewhere in the publication.

2. Locating publishers and rights departments

Your first port of call should be to contact the publisher. The publishers website will normally provide comprehensive information on how to apply for permission to use their material.

If the publisher is no longer in business

  • If the book has an ISBN, the ISBN prefix may have been taken over by another publisher or group. You can search the FOB (Firms out of Business) database for publishers who have gone out of business
  • Consult the British Library Catalogue, JISC Library Hub Discover, or an online bookshop such as Amazon to see whether there is a more recent edition of the book in print
  • Try to trace the author, as the rights may have reverted to him or her

3. Locating known individuals who own the copyright

Authors of theses

  • A search of a bibliographic database may reveal some recent publications by the author concerned, and may yield up-to-date contact details.
  • The department in which the research was carried out may know the current address of the author and be able to forward correspondence
  • Many UK universities have an alumni office which will forward letters to graduates for whom they have an address on file. The University of Aberdeen are happy to forward correspondence to the copyright holder where the thesis was awarded by the University of Aberdeen. You can contact the alumni office Find a Friend service.

Authors of journal articles

  • Try to locate the most recent work by the author as this is likely to contain their most recent address. A very general bibliographic tool such as Scopus, Web of Science or Google can be useful. Social media may also be used to locate authors
  • If the address given in the article is out of date, someone there may be able to give a current address or forward correspondence

Authors and illustrators

  • Try a search on the internet using the authors/illustrator’s name and title of the work
  • The publisher may be able and willing to pass on correspondence to the rightsholder
  • A publisher of the author's later work may be able to assist
  • The Society of Authors [UK] may be able to help
  • The Design and Artists Copyright Society may represent an artist or photographer

4. Identifying unknown copyright owners

  • Try to locate the most recent work of the author concerned and contact the publisher.
  • Contact libraries and/or archives that hold a large collection of the author’s work or private papers
  • Contact biographers or other scholars who specialise in the work of the author
  • Consult author’s directories in libraries
  • You may be able to trace a copyright holder via The WATCH database

How to get permission:

  • Check whether the copyright owner gives "blanket" permission for your intended use
  • If not, identify and locate the copyright owner
  • Contact the copyright owner and ask for permission for each intended usage of the copyright material
  • Beware! It may take some considerable time to receive a response to your request, so remember to factor this into your timetable. Lack of a response does NOT mean that you can go ahead and use the material
  • When the copyright owner responds, consider whether their terms are acceptable. You may decide to try to negotiate more favourable terms. Once a mutually acceptable agreement is reached, you may go ahead and use the work as authorised.
  • Once permission to use the material has been granted, you should include an acknowledgement within your thesis, e.g "Permission to reproduce this.... has been granted by ......"
  • Keep a note of all correspondence (including e-mail correspondence) relating to permissions.

The Strategic Content Alliance IPR Toolkit, particularly Section 3.1 Getting Permissions, gives some useful information.

Commercial Copies

Commercial copies of published works created by members of the University of Aberdeen as a result of commercially funded research, may be supplied to employees of the organisation funding the research. Provided any copying is within the terms stipulated by the CPDA 1988 and you do not have prior permission from the copyright holder you may:

  • Supply a single paper copy on the condition that it may not be further copied or reproduced
  • A digital copy may only be opened once and a single paper copy printed out. (which may not itself be further copied) following which the digital copy must be deleted
  • A copyright declaration must be attached to each paper or digital copy

Copyright in your work

When publishing your own work you should consider the terms under which you would like the work to be made available for others to use and re-use.

The contract you sign with the publishers of your work will, in most cases, include some transfer of copyright. This is especially true of journal publications. If copyright is assigned to the publishers, you may no longer be able to reproduce your own work without permission from the publishers. It is usually best to attempt to negotiate as broad a range of permissions as possible before publication.

Publishers' contracts will ask for the signature of the copyright owner. If the work was produced as part of your employment, e.g. work arising from a research grant, or creation of teaching materials, you should sign the contract on behalf of the University. If you have co-authors from other institutions, you should ask their permission to sign on their behalf.

Open Access

For more information, go to our Open Access web pages. Some grant-awarding bodies including the Wellcome Trust and RCUK make it a condition of their funding that you publish in an open-access journal such as those listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Creative Commons

Another option is to use a Creative Commons Licence. These are a fairly recent innovation designed to give copyright owners the flexibility to make their work available for reuse under a range of clearly defined terms and conditions. There are six licences, each with differing levels of permission, each of which give clear guidance on how the contents may be reused and any conditions attached. Details of the six licences can be found on the Creative Commons Licences web page.

Please note however, any further use outwith the scope of your chosen CC-licence can only be made with your express permission.

Use of third-party content

When publishing your work, consider the copyright of any third-party content you include.

Use open content where possible

Including a small amount of text for criticism or review is allowed. Fair dealing only applies to quotations reproduced to illustrate comments about that or another literary or artistic work. It does not cover the quotation of material in order e.g. to comment on the author, or the person who is the subject of the book.

The law does not give specific guidelines on what constitutes ‘fair dealing’; but it may be relevant to take into account the following:

  • the length and importance of the quotation(s)
  • the amount quoted in relation to your commentary
  • the extent to which your work competes with or rivals the work quoted
  • the extent to which the material quoted is saving you work
  • the extent to which your use is commercial rather than e.g. academic

The inclusion of any third-party material that amounts to more than an “insubstantial amount” can only be done with the copyright holder’s permission.


Illustration for instruction

The most recent changes to copyright legislation introduced a new exception, entitled "Illustration for instruction" which allows extracts of any type of copyright material to be used for teaching purposes. The exact extent of copying allowed under this exception has not been stipulated, nor are there any clear-cut definition as to exactly what constitutes "illustration" or "instruction" therefore it is left to the individual's discretion as to whether their use of this exception is materially or ethically compliant as the use will be judged on a number of factors:

  • Use of copyright material is subject to fair dealing, so you may only use the minimum amount required to make your teaching point.
  • All types of copyright work is now included, but the use must be solely for "illustration for instruction" - to illustrate a teaching point, and not merely as an enhancement to a presentation or lecture.
  • The use of the material must not adversely affect the rightsholder's anticipated financial gain from sales of the work.
  • Copying must be done by a person giving or receiving instruction.
  • Copying must be for non-commercial purposes only.
  • The work(s) used must be sufficiently acknowledged.

Under this exception, you make also a include a limited amount of a copyright work for the purposes of examination subject to fair dealing.

If your use of the work does not satisfy the requirements above, you may be able to make use of materials under the CLA Higher Education Licence.

Using Materials under a Licence

You may make multiple photocopies for your students from books and journals provided they are covered by the licence. To determine whether an item is covered by the licence, consult these:

You may scan from books and journals which are covered by the licence (Use the permissions check tool for use in powerpoint presentations (provided due acknowledgement is given).

You may make items scanned under the licence available to students on MyAberdeen.

Please note, there are a number of specific requirements associated with using materials scanned under the CLA licence in My Aberdeen. Please see the Copyright and the VLE  page for full details.

Licences are also available covering newspapers and recorded broadcasts. See the Licences section for full details.