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Staffordshire University Copyright Guidance

A guide to best practices with copyright

Copyright basics

copyright word cloud

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. 

Copyright Law in the United Kingdon is based on the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.  There is no requirement to register copyright in the UK - it exists automatically once an original work has been created.  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.

Moral rights are concerned with the protection of the reputation of the creator of a work.  In particular the right to be named and recognised as the creator, the right to object to when the work is falsely attributed to someone else, and the right to object to defamatory treatment of the work.  Unlike copyright, moral rights cannot be assigned to anyone else - 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 after death). 


The duration of copyright, or the 'copyright term', dictates how long copyright protection is applied to a work.

This is determined by:

  • the type of work
  • the author(s) of the work
  • the creation or publication date of the work


General Types of Work Copyright Duration


  • essays, plays, poems, stories
  • dances
  • musical works
  • graphic works (e.g. paintings, drawings, photographs, scultptures)
  • architecture
From the date of creation until 70 years after the death of the author.

Broadcasts (e.g. television shows)

50 years from the year when the braodcast was made.


(Any recording from which a moving image can be produced)

70 years after the death of the last surviving author, composer, director or writer.

If the identitiy of those persons is unknown - 70 years from the creation date or 70 years from the date of being released to the public.

Sound recordings : published

(Played in public or broadcast)

70 years from the year of broadcast.

Sound recordings : unpublished

50 years from the year the recording was made


(The visual layout of a published edition)

25 years from the year of first publication.
Specific Types of Works  
Computer generated works (no human author) 50 years from the year of creation.
Crown Copyright (e.g. Government Departments)

125 years from creation.

Parliamentary Copyright (e.g. House of Commons or House of Lords) 50 years from creation.
Joint authors or Co-Authorship 70 years from the year in which the last surviving author dies.
Unknown author (where the identity of the author(s) is unknown or cannot be identified after enquiries)

70 years from the end of the year in which the work eas created.

Official information from: Guidance - Copyright Notice: Duration of copyright (term) Published: 15 January 2021 (GOV.UK)


Official information from: Copyright Licensing Agency


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 if the use of copyright material is legal or if it infringes copyright.  There is no statutory definition of fair dealing.  Fair dealing requires a judgment to be made and 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 researchers can copy limited extracts of all types of copyright works for the purpose of research and private study. You must be actively and genuinely studying - for example on a college or university course. The amount is limited by fair dealing and must be sufficiently acknowledged and strictly for non-commercial purposes, and there should be no financial impact on the copyright owner.

Fair dealing permits the use of a work for the purpose of criticism and review provided that the work has been sufficiently acknowledged. 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, provided that the work has been sufficiently acknowledged.

Accessible copies of a copyright work can be made by, or on behalf of, a disabled person. The adapted copy must be for private use only and the work being copied be 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.

Limited amounts of copyright material can be used for the purposes of caricature, parody and pastiche, and must comply with 'fair dealing'. Students and academics might find uses for this, eg in creating and publishing user-generated content in some disciplines.

Further information on exceptions to copyright is provided by the Intellectual Property Office


The information contained within these pages is intended for general guidance only on copyright issues for teachers, students and researchers at Staffordshire University. It is not legal advice.