Accessibility statement

Copyright law: Exceptions


In addition, the University holds several licences which allow members to copy and re-use some types of material in scenarios where no exception applies.

There are some exceptions within the law which allow you to copy material under certain circumstances without infringing copyright.

Most of these exceptions apply to everyone, and are intended to encourage creative and innovative uses of copyright material while protecting the interests of the rights-holder.

Other exceptions only apply in an educational context, and some are designed to enable libraries to preserve material, share it with another library or supply off-site, with conditions.

Several of these exceptions rely on the concept of Fair Dealing, which has no legal definition, although a large body of case law has established some boundaries:

Re-use of a modest portion of a copyright work (<10% is often used as a guideline), fully attributed, for a limited audience, for a limited time, in a non-commercial environment, may be defensible as 'fair'. Courts have been willing to stretch this definition in cases where there is clearly no impact on the market for the original work.

The list below is not exhaustive: the Intellectual Property Office has published a full set of guides to Exceptions to Copyright.

Non-commercial research and private study


Within the boundaries of fair dealing, anyone (not only students and academics) can make a single copy of an extract from a copyright work, for their own non-commercial research or private study, accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement.

For example: you can photocopy a chapter from a library book to read at home, or a page of sheet music to practise.

Text and data analysis for non-commercial research


Researchers can copy published text and data in bulk in order to carry out lexical analysis to derive patterns from the dataset.

For example: you are part of a university team researching medical history by using a specially-developed application to log every instance of the word "cancer" and its context in the British Medical Journal's archives.

Criticism, review, quotation and news reporting


You can use an extract from any published work to accompany your own work, with sufficient acknowledgement. The context must be fair dealing,  and you must be able to justify why you need the amount you've chosen to reproduce.  Using other people's photos without permission for news reporting is explicitly excluded. 

For example: you can take a screenshot from a website for use in a Powerpoint presentation, or a few seconds of a music track to accompany an animation you’ve created.

Accessible copies


When no accessible version is available to buy or borrow, a single copy of any type of copyright work can be made by or for a person with any disability which “prevents the person from enjoying the work to the same degree as a person who does not have that disability”. An educational establishment can make accessible copies for multiple users under the same terms.

For example: if you have difficulty reading from print, you can ask the Library to create a digital copy of a textbook for your screen-reader.

See also:

Illustration for instruction


Within the boundaries of fair dealing, any teacher or student can copy an extract from any copyright work for the purposes of "giving or receiving instruction" in a non-commercial context, including setting or completing assessment tasks. This exception should not be used for course reading, which is covered by the University's CLA Licence.

For example: a tutor can include a low-resolution reproduction of an artwork in a course handout, or upload a scene from a film to the VLE, with full attribution.

Advice from UK higher education ICT specialists Jisc Legal in 2014 asserted that "Until it is decided otherwise it is fairly safe to assume that most college and university courses are non-commercial whether or not a fee is charged".

Performing, playing or showing a work… in an educational establishment


Teachers and students can perform a literary, dramatic or musical work for an internal audience, or play a sound recording, film or broadcast for the purpose of instruction.

For example: A student ensemble can screen a film while performing the soundtrack live to an audience of fellow students and tutors for an assignment.

This exception does not cover:

  • making copies of sheet music for performers to use
  • performing/showing an entire work in an extra-curricular context, or inviting a non-University audience (you may need a licence from FilmBank, PPL or PRS for Music)
  • recording a performance
  • uploading a sound recording, film or broadcast to the VLE (broadcasts are covered by the University's ERA Licence)