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Staffordshire University Copyright Guidance

A guide to best practices with copyright

Copyright basics

Copyright is a legally enforceable property right that makes it possible for the holder of that right to profit from a work.  It does this by preventing others from exploiting the work without the rightsholder’s say so for a period of time. Copyright protects the expression of ideas but not the idea itself.  For a work to gain copyright protection it has to be original and should be expressed in a fixed form - for example, in writing (whether in print or electronic). Copyright becomes effective at the time of the creation of the work.  It arises automatically in the UK. Individuals who want to reproduce the original work of others may need to seek permission to do so.


The creator of a work usually owns the copyright of that work. However, like any form of property, copyright can be bought, sold, inherited or leased. In the case of a book, the author will usually be the rights holder, though they may grant an exclusive licence to the publisher to publish the book. Alternatively, the author may sell their copyright to the publisher. This means that some or all of the economic rights may subsequently belong to someone other than the first owner.

In contrast, the moral rights accorded to film directors and the authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works remain with the author or director or pass to his or her heirs on death.

Moral rights are concerned with the protection of the reputation of the author. In particular the right to be attributed for the creation of a work, and the right to object to defamatory treatment.
Copyright generally exists for a period of 70 years following the death of the work’s author. If the work has several authors, the period of protection will last for 70 years following the death of the last surviving author.


Below are some other exceptions and clarifications to the 70 year rule.

  • Photographs taken before 1 August 1989 – subject to varying factors and exceptions; contact the Copyright Guidance Service for advice.
  • Dramatic and musical work with no named author - 70 years from date of publication.
  • Published sound recordings – 70 years from recording being made.
  • Unpublished sound recordings – 50 years from recording being made.
  • Films - 70 years from the death of the last surviving author out of the director, producer, author of screenplay, composer of soundtrack.
  • Broadcasts - 50 years from date of broadcast.
  • Typographical layout - 25 years from publication.
  • Crown copyright - 125 years from publication, subject to a waiver.

- No more than a chapter of a book OR

- One article from a journal OR

- One case report from a Law Report OR

- No more that 10% of a given work, whichever is greater.

It is important to note that the legal permissions that allow you to reference third-party material in your academic work do not extend to the work if you choose to publish it. In this case you must seek permission from the sources to use their work.

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 fair dealing. Fair dealing requires a judgment to be made. Every instance of copying is different. Where the use would not adversely affect sales of the work, and where the amount copied is reasonable and appropriate to the context, then it is likely that it can be considered fair dealing.

Students and those research can copy limited extracts of works for research and private study. This includes text, images, sound and video recordings. The amount is limited by fair dealing and must be sufficiently acknowledged and for non-commercial purposes.

Permits the use of a work for the purpose of criticism and review provided that the work has been made available to the public. For this exception to apply the copying of the work must be truly connected with review and criticism and not purely for illustrative or enhancement purposes.

Allows for the use of quotations from copyright works for illustrative purposes. This makes it easier to use extracts from copyright works in teaching and learning, Blackboard and other VLEs, course and distance learning materials and commercial publications etc.

Accessible copies of a copyright work can be made for a disabled person if it is for private use and the work being copied is inaccessible to them without adaptation. See the Accessibility page for more details.

Allows lecturers to copy a small amount of material where necessary to illustrate a teaching point. This extends to include material for examination purposes. Covers music and video as well as text-based material.

Copyright law permits the recording of broadcasts by educational establishments for educational purposes of that establishment, provided that the recording is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement (unless this would be impossible). This exception enables institutions to provide staff and students off-campus access to recordings of broadcasts. However, this exception only applies where the broadcast is not covered by a licence the institution should have known about, and the majority of broadcasts the University records are already covered by our Educational Recording Agency (ERA) Plus licence. This licence permits the recording of broadcasts for non-commercial educational purposes.

This exception enables UK researchers to copy a work in order to analyse it using text and data mining technologies. The exception applies where the analysis is for the purpose of non-commercial research. You must already have lawful access to the work; for example, where a subscription to a journal is required.

This new exception has been introduced to allow use of copyright work for the purposes of caricature, parody and pastiche. Students and academics might find uses for this, eg in creating and publishing user-generated content in some disciplines.


The information contained within these pages is intended as general guide of current copyright issues for teachers, students and researchers at Staffordshire University. It should not be construed as legal advice.