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Copyright explained

Understanding Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and copyright is essential whenever you are copying or sharing works that are owned or produced by others for example articles, images, patented ideas. Adherence to copyright legislation is a University wide responsibility and all members of the University should ensure they observe current copyright guidance and legislation.

This guide provides practical advice for staff and students at Edge Hill University about what you can do and to ensure you can protect your own copyright and adhere to the law when using material in copyright. Copyright can be a complex issue and so if you can’t find the answer you are looking for in these pages, please contact the team via email.

What is copyright? 

In the UK, copyright law is governed by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and protects the rights of creative works in material form.
Copyright is an automatic right that provides creators with the right to control the use of their material for a fixed period, generally 70 years after the author’s death. No formal registration is required so the law protects your work, even when you don’t register it or attached the copyright symbol ©.
Copyright on works made during a course of employment usually rest with the employer, unless specifically agreed otherwise. In keeping with standard higher education practice, the University does not claim copyright over scholarly works created or authored by employees as a result of their research and scholarly activity. Further information can be found in the University’s Intellectual Property Policy

What is covered by copyright? 

Copyright can apply to a broad range of creative works including original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, and to films, broadcasts and sound recordings. In most cases the work must be written down or in a permanent or fixed form in order to attract copyright. 

What does it cover? 

The person who owns the copyright has the exclusive right to control the use of their work and the ability to make money from it. Others are restricted from using a copyright work in certain ways without seeking permission. The following activities are defined as “restricted acts” in copyright law which means that authorisation must be sought by the copyright owner: 

  • to copy the work 
  • to issue copies of the work to the public 
  • to perform, show or play the work in public  
  • to broadcast the work or include it in other types of electronic transmission  
  • to make an adaptation of the work  

If you wish to do any of the above restricted acts, then you must first make sure that you have either an appropriate licence or that a copyright exception applies.  


Copyright owners who wish to permit certain uses of their work may assign a licence that will allow others to use it according to specific conditions. Edge Hill subscribes to a range of licences, some of which cover entire types of copyright work and permit certain types of use.
For example, the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) higher education licence covers the majority of published journal articles and books. An overview of the licences we hold and what they allow you to do is available below.

Summary of different licences

LicenceWhat does it cover?
Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) higher education licence 
Higher Education – Notice for display
Copies and scans up to 10% of a chapter/article from a journal, magazine or book, whichever is greater. 
ERA (Educational Recording Agency) Licence Permits recording of off-air broadcasts.  
NLA (Newspaper Licensing Agency) Education Establishment Licence Make copies from UK national newspapers.
Creative Commons  Allows open sharing of copyright work under conditions chosen by the copyright owner.

Electronic resources

The Library has licence agreements with publishers that govern access to our electronic resource subscriptions and set out how each specific resource can be used and by whom. Conditions of these licences can vary considerably. As a rule, if you want to use an electronic journal or book for anything other than reading online or making single copies of a chapter or article for your own personal use then you are advised to consult the licence terms for that resource. If you are in any doubt, please contact us via email.


The Copyright, Designs and Patents (CDPA) Act 1988 which is the current UK copyright law sets out a number of exceptions, in the form of permitted acts. These exceptions enable you to make limited use of copyright works for defined purposes without needing to seek permission of the copyright holder. Below you can find a summary of the most common copyright exceptions and guidance on how you can apply them.

ExceptionSummaryPotential useRelevant section in CDPA 1988
Research and private studyPermits individuals to make a single copy or short extract when the use is made for non-commercial research or private study.Photocopying the chapter of a book as research for a dissertation.Section 29
Accessible copyingPermits individuals and institutions to create an adapted version or an ‘accessible copy’ of an entire work or part of a work for a disabled user as long as the person has lawful access to the work.Creating a large print copy of a book for someone with a visual impairment.Section 31A and 31B
Criticism, review and quotationPermits individuals to reproduce copyright works for the purpose of quotation, critique and review. The amount used is subject to fair dealing.Using short extracts or quotations in a dissertation for the purpose of criticism.Section 30
Illustration for instructionAllows for all types of copyright work to be copied for the purpose of illustration when teaching. The use must be non-commercial and fair dealing applies so copying must be restricted to a small amount.Including text, images or other media such as a video snippet in teaching slides or lecture recordings. Adding content to examination papers.Section 32
Educational performanceAllows you to perform, play or show a work in an educational setting. The audience must be limited to members of the educational establishment and must not include members of the public. Performances shown at film clubs or non-teaching events are not permitted.Playing a film in a class where the film is relevant to the teaching.Section 34
Recording of broadcastsPermits an educational establishment to record TV and radio broadcasts and make them available to their students provided they are used for non-commercial and educational purposes.This use is covered by the ERA Licence which also provides the University with access to the Box of Broadcasts service.Section 35

The Intellectual Property Office provides further information about these and other exceptions on their website.

Fair dealing

The exceptions above can usually only be applied if the use of the work is fair dealing. Fair dealing is a legal term used to establish if the use of the copyrighted material is lawful or if it infringes copyright. There is no statutory definition of fair dealing. It requires a judgement to be made by the person carrying out the copying. Generally, if the use of the work would not affect sales and the amount being copied is reasonable, then the use may be considered fair. The key question to be asked is:

 How would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work?