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Copyright for assignments: Home

Copyright page

Photo: iStock-656591624The guidance on this page will help you to understand more about copyright in relation to producing your assignments.

As a member of the academic community at Southampton you are expected to work in accordance with the principles of academic integrity, which include:

  • respecting the rights of other researchers or authors, 
  • following accepted conventions, rules and laws when presenting your own work

To help you to act in accordance with these principles, it is important to be aware of and observe the Intellectual Property rights, one of which is copyright. 

Copyright law is designed to protect the moral and economic rights of authors of original works. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 prevents anyone other than the copyright owner from copying, adapting, publishing or performing an original work without the copyright owner's permission (or a relevant license) for a fixed number of years.

Watch this short video from the BBC copyright aware website for a quick explanation of copyright:


Examples of works protected by copyright law

  • Books, poetry, song lyrics, reports, articles and manuscripts
  • Websites, social media posts, software, databases and web content
  • Musical scores, plays and dances
  • Sound recordings, film, videos and television programmes
  • Photographs, sculptures, illustrations, paintings and architecture
  • Tables, logos and typographical arrangements


Using another author's work

In general, for research or study, you may use another author’s work as a source of information or inspiration as long as you acknowledge or give credit to the author and their work by using citations and references. Failure to properly reference another person’s work is classed as plagiarism and can result in disciplinary action.

See the Exceptions to Copyright Factsheet from the Intellectual Property Office for more detailed information on the exceptions to copyright that allow limited use of copyright works without the need to gain permission. Be careful to check what you can and cannot do with a ‘Copyrighted’ work.


You are responsible

All students are personally responsible for complying with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988. Failure to do so is taken seriously and may result in legal action by the copyright holder.


Guidance on Copyright 

BBC Copyright Aware and the Intellectual Property Office have both created useful guidance on copyright. Follow the links below for more information: 

  • The Copyright Aware section of the BBC website is a straightforward and easy to understand introduction to copyright. It includes sections explaining what copyright is, copyright permissions, exceptions to copyright and your own copyright.
  • The Intellectual Property Office provides information and guidance on copyright and intellectual property issues in the UK, including this useful guide: - How copyright protects your work

You will find further advice in the Related resources section of this webpage.


Here are common questions that you may have about copyright...

The information in this section is for guidance only and does not constitute legal advice.


Copyright law and agreed licences restrict how much copying a university can do for its students. Both place limits on how much of a work can be copied.

The CLA Licence that the library has allows us to copy materials to add to our course collections. For academic purposes we can copy or scan a chapter from a book, but we cannot copy or scan the whole book.

If you feel that there are not enough copies of a book available in the library, please contact us.

Images available online are not necessarily free to use and in most cases will be protected by copyright law. Try to use photos or images that you have created yourself, or look for images which are copyright cleared. Our Art and Design LibGuides page has a list of image databases and online image libraries (although some of these images may still be copyrighted). Alternatively, use the search tool on the Creative Commons website to find Creative Commons licensed works. Whether protected by copyright or a license, or whether copyright free, all images used in your academic work should still be cited and referenced.

Using your own images or open licensed materials in your academic work will give you more freedom to reuse the work in the future. For example: sharing it via LinkedIn, showing it at an event, or distributing it to potential employers.

If you are relying on an exception (such as the fair dealing exceptions), you may find that you cannot publish, copy or distribute your project or portfolio after your studies end as the new use is not considered fair, and therefore not covered by the exception.

Original works are protected by copyright law from the moment they are created. However, different types of work are protected for different periods of time, and copyright protections and expiry dates can vary from country to country.

When copyright expires, the original work enters the public domain and can be reproduced without the original author's permission. However, for the purposes of your academic work, it is still essential to cite and reference any works you use, even if they are no longer protected by copyright law.

See the Duration of Copyright section of the The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 for a full list of copyright durations in the UK.

There are limits on what the law allows you to copy. As an individual you can copy for your own non-commercial research and private study but you are limited by what is called fair dealing as to how much of a work (for example book, journal issue, map etc) you can copy.

Fair dealing is a legal term used to establish whether a use of copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright. Fair dealing requires that the amount copied is reasonable and appropriate to the context and that the copying does not adversely affect sales of the work.

Provided the copying is for private study or non-commercial research, it would usually be fair to copy up to one chapter or 5% from a book for your course, but not the whole book.

If you feel that there are not enough copies of a book available in the library please contact us.

You may find the Copyright page on the Thesis web pages of some assistance. This page provides information on copyright along with some guidance on how to obtain permission to include third party copyright material in your thesis. If you require further guidance on copyright related to Doctoral theses contact

The Intellectual Property Office is a great source of advice and information on all aspects of Intellectual property and they have produced these helpful guides on copyright which may answer your question

Legal Services at the University of Southampton

The Legal Services team at the University of Southampton are able to advise staff on copyright and Intellectual Property

Visit the Intellectual Property section of the Legal Services web pages for further information on how they can help you.

Requesting resources for teaching

If you would like to request resources for teaching (such as books, digitized book chapters, articles etc.), please visit the library page Requesting Resources for Teaching.


The information on this page is aimed at students who are producing assignments in the course of their studies which are not intended for publication.

This page is for guidance purposes. It cannot cover every eventuality, so if you cannot find an answer to your question using the resources on this page please contact 

Book online appointment. Imagee:iStock-1212108555

Related resources:

Copyright Bites - A series of short guides and videos that makes copyright law and policy easier to understand.

Copyright user - An independent online resource aimed at making UK Copyright Law accessible to creators, media professionals, entrepreneurs, students, and members of the public. The textual content of the website has been produced by leading copyright academics

Creative commons - Enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools and licenses

Creative Content UK : Get it Right from a Genuine Site - Promotes the value of creativity and aims to reduce online copyright infringement

What is intellectual property? - Tutorial from the Intellectual Property Office which teaches you the basics of Intellectual Property rights: patents, trade marks, design and copyright. The training takes approximately 40 minutes to complete and can be tailored to your area of study.

Copyright information for eThesis - Guidance on copyright issues in relation to eThesis at the University of Southampton

What is Fair Use? Fair Dealing Copyright Explained - The British Library