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Copyright: Home

Information for Students.   Information for Researchers.

Copyright is relevant whenever you are copying or sharing creative work. This guide helps you to understand copyright and its relevance to your work and study at the University of Southampton.

What does copyright protect?

Illustrative image. Copyright protects and allows sharing.    Image from 01:08 video ‘Copyright & Creativity’ by released under CC-BY 3.0  license.Copyright is a type of ‘intellectual property right’ that gives the authors of original, creative works the right to decide who is allowed to copy and share their work and how.There are many types of work which qualify for copyright protection in the UK, for example books, journals, personal correspondence, software, music, art works, diagrams, databases audio recordings, films and broadcasts.


Who owns copyright?

illustrattive image of copyright and a lock. Photo: iStock-656591624The first owner of copyright is usually the author or the producer of the work, although if you create something as part of your job your employer will typically own the copyright.The exception to this at Southampton is if you create what are called “scholarly works” such as essays, journal articles or books. If you create a scholarly work it is likely that you will own the copyright in it.Copyright ownership can also be assigned to other people or organisations.


Activities covered by copyright

Copyright law gives the copyright owner certain "exclusive rights". This means that:

  • nobody else can use your copyright work in certain ways without your permission
  • You need permission to use someone else’s work.

The following activities are all defined in copyright law as “restricted acts” which only the copyright owner or their representative has the right to authorise:

  • Copying
  • Issuing copies to the public (i.e. publishing and distributing physical copies of works)
  • Renting or lending
  • Publicly performing (i.e. showing, playing or performing copyright works in a public space)
  • Communicating to the public by means of electronic transmission (i.e. broadcast and online communication)
  • Adapting (e.g. making a film adaptation of a book)

If you're doing any of the above with a copyright work, you need to make sure that you either have a licence or that a copyright exception applies. Click here for copyright exceptions.


Copyright licences

If you own the copyright in a work you'll probably want others to use it according to certain conditions. The permissions you give to others will come in the form of a copyright licence. Similarly, if you want to make use of copyright material created by others you will find that much of it comes with licences attached.

Digital content

The terms of use you accept when you access digital resources such as websites, social media services, databases and electronic library resources all contain copyright licensing terms.

Collective licences

Other types of "collective licence" are available to staff and students, which cover entire classes of copyright work. For example, the University has signed the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Higher Education licence and this covers the majority of published books and journals. This licence allows us to copy up to 10% or a chapter/article from a qualifying book or journal, whichever is the greater.

Creative Commons

Illustrative image of creative common copyright. Image from 02:28 video ‘Copyright & Creativity’ by released under CC-BY 3.0  license.Creative Commons licences are also widely used in research and education. These licences are designed to promote sharing of copyright material with as few barriers to use and reuse as possible. They allow use of the copyright works without payment and may also allow others to create new works based on the original work.

The most commonly encountered licences at the University are summarised below:


Summary of different licences:

Type of licence

What's covered

CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency)

Copies of up to one chapter/article of 10% (whichever is the greater) from books, journals and magazines

ERA (Educational Recording Agency)

Recordings from UK TV and radio broadcasts (provided by BoB - On Demand)

NLA Media Access (Newspaper Licensing Agency)

Links and copies of articles from newspapers

PRS for Music/PPL

Public performance of musical works


Public screenings of feature films not linked to educational activity

Creative Commons

Allows open sharing of copyright work as decided by the copyright owner who may restrict commercial use or adaptations, or require any adaptations to be licensed on the same terms

Digital library resources

Allows you to access e-books, journals and other databases for your non-commercial study or research



Copyright exceptions

Although licences can provide you with explicit permission to use copyright works in certain ways, there are times when licences are unavailable or inappropriate.For example, if you're quoting extracts from a large number of different works in a piece of academic work, it may be impossible to get permission from every copyright holder. The law therefore includes "exceptions" to copyright which allow use of copyright works without the copyright holder's permission in certain contexts. These are called "permitted acts" in the legislation, which is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) and are often based on the principle that the use is covered by fair dealing”.


Summary of relevant UK copyright exceptions

Name of exception


Activities covered

CDPA section

Research or private study

Allows students and researchers to make copies of copyright works for non-commercial research or private study.

Making personal copies of extracts from books and journals

Copying images to use as stimulus in research study

Section 29


Allows anyone to reproduce copyright works for the purpose of quotation where it is fair

Includes presenting extracts from books, journals and musical works to students

Potential use of whole works where the use is fair. For example, review of a poem.

Section 30

Accessible copying

Allows individuals or institutions to provide equal access to copyright works for users with any type disability

Digitising print material

Format shifting text to audio

Creating subtitles for videos

Sections 31A-F

Illustration for instruction

Allows teachers or students to use copyright work in teaching or study where the use is fair

Including text, images, music or video in teaching slides and lecture recordings

Adding content to examination papers

Section 32

Educational performance

Allows any copyright work that can be performed, played or shown in an educational setting (where there is no charge to view) to be performed played or shown

Screening a film in a lecture, playing musical sound recordings in class, performance of a play in class (i.e. not for an external audience)

Section 34

Recording of broadcasts

Allows educational establishment to record TV and radio broadcasts and make them available to students

Underpins the University’s use of BoB Online TV streaming service

Section 35

Making multiple copies

Allows educational institutions to copy up to 5% of a copyright work and supply multiple copies to students

Copying of book extracts not covered by the CLA licence

Copying up to 5% of a film or sound recording and making it available to students on Moodle


Section 36


Fair dealing

Illustrative image showing light tower at sea. Image by under CC-BY 3.0  license.Many copyright exceptions involve a test of "fair dealing". This means you need to think about whether your use of someone else’s work is fair, for example:

  • Have you used it in a way that stops them from selling the work, or making use of it in the way they want to?
  • Have you used more of the work than you need to for your purpose?

Deciding on whether something is fair will always need to be done on a case-by-case basis - we can help. Please email us at


Copyright risk

Because many elements of copyright law are subjective, particularly whether an activity is "fair", you may need to take a risk management approach.

This means you might use a copyright work even if you can't be 100% sure that the activity is non-infringing. To assess copyright risk you'll need to consider the following:

  • What is the likelihood that what you are doing infringes copyright?
  • How likely is it that the copyright holder will discover your activity (for example, is it for an assignment or to be published)?
  • How likely is it that the copyright holder will object to your activity?
  • What is the impact (both financial and reputational) if the copyright holder was to take action against you or the University?

Read more on the Copyright Literacy blog.



If you have any questions about copyright, email

Copyright for students

When studying at the University of Southampton you'll be using and creating works protected by copyright. This page gives you the general information you need to help you in your studies.

Using other people’s copyright works

Creative works such as books, photographs, music and film are all protected by copyright automatically when written down, recorded or saved.This gives the copyright owner the right to decide what you're allowed to do with that work. You should make sure your use of copyright works is legal.If you infringe copyright by using someone else’s work unfairly and without permission you may be liable for legal action.


Video transcript [word doc].


Licensed resources

Most of the books, journals, databases and software you use in your studies are protected by copyright. Your tuition fees help us pay licence fees that allow us to provide you with the resources you need.

Licenses allow you to access these resources for your studies, but don’t allow you to share them with others online.

You may want to copy or share works that are not covered by a licence paid for by the University. In some cases you'll need permission from the copyright holder.

In other cases your activity may be covered by copyright exceptions even if you don't have a licence.


Copyright exceptions

There are exceptions to copyright that allow you to make copies of copyright works and use them when writing coursework, essays and other projects without a licence. For example, you may need to:

  • Quote some text from a book in an assignment or incorporate film clips into a video essay.
  • Make copies or adapt works if you have a disability.

It's important that your use of copyright material is fair to the copyright owner and that you always credit the author or producers of the works you're using.

If you have specific questions about using other people’s copyright in a fair and legal way, please email us at


Copyright in your work

Illustrative image  showing a peson and icons of education. Image istockphoto-509366330You own the copyright in the original scholarly work you create at the University. This includes personal lecture notes, essays and examination responses in any form.

If you create copyright material in collaboration with others, you'll share the copyright ownership. If you create work with significant input from University staff, the University may own the copyright in it, which will affect what you are able to do with it. Contact us if you need further information.


Copyright and your thesis

If you're a PhD student your thesis may contain material for which you don't hold the copyright, for example:

  •  Quotations, such as passages of text or music
  • Images, such as photographs, maps, charts or graphs

If you have used this type of material, you need to:

  • Check if the copyright has expired; or
  • Check if there is a clear statement that the work can be used under a Creative Commons licence; or
  • Determine that the use of the material falls within the description of 'fair dealing' under UK law; or
  • Get the permission of the rights holders to include their content.

You will need to take copyright into consideration when preparing your final thesis. University regulations require that an electronic copy be made available via our institutional repository and that all third-party copyright not covered by exceptions have been copyright cleared. Further guidance on how to clear copyright is available from the copyright section of the Thesis LibGuide and from a series of self-guided videos on the Theses training page.

The University Open Access Policy can be found here.

Additional training is available in a series of self-guided videos which can found here. If you have any specific questions regarding thesis and Open Access please email


Copyright infringement and plagiarism

Plagiarism and copyright infringement is not the same thing, but you should avoid doing either.

  • Plagiarism means presenting someone else’s work as your own, even if you don’t copy their precise words or creative expression.
  • Copyright infringement means copying or sharing someone else’s creative work without their permission - this can happen even if you're not representing their work as your own. Using peer-to-peer puts you at risk of copyright infringement.

Work you submit for assessment must be your own original work. See the Quality Handbook, Academic Integrity Students, Information for Students to find out more about academic integrity, good practice and your responsibilities. For more information please check our Academic Integrity Checklist: helping you to avoid making breaches of academic integrity.



If you have any questions about copyright, email

Copyright for researchers

Doing research at the University of Southampton means creating new knowledge that builds on existing knowledge. This page helps you understand how to navigate copyright and related rights when undertaking your research.

Copyright in research outputs

Illustrative image of copyright logo. Image iStock-1138068503Your research outputs, such as papers, datasets, diagrams or even practice-based research are likely to be protected automatically by copyright. Depending on the nature of your research they may also be protected by other types of intellectual property, such as database rights, patents or design rights.The detail of who owns the legal rights associated with work created at the University of Southampton is in the University Intellectual Property Regulations.

If you write a traditional "scholarly work" (such as a journal article or an academic monograph) then you will own the copyright in that work, or will share the copyright with other co-authors or their employers.

In some cases, the University will own the copyright in the outputs of your research, for example if you create software. In other cases, funders, such as commercial organisations, may own the intellectual property arising from your research as stated in your funding agreement.

We offer extensive guidance on Open Access, Research Data Management, Theses and associated research outputs.


Open Access publishing

You need to be aware of Open Access Publishing and how it relates to your research.

Open Access publishing refers to material that is free to all readers at the point of access, so they can use and share it easily. In addition to being free of charge, true open access means the work must be free of legal restrictions on reuse. So if you're publishing Open Access you'll need to select the appropriate copyright licence.

Many funders mandate Open Access publishing for research outputs, and a list of funder mandates can be found here.



Illustrative image of a book. Image: quote-shutterstock_374848786You're likely to want to include other people's copyright material in your research outputs, for example:

  • Quotations, such as passages of text or music
  • Images, such as photographs, maps, charts or graphs

Quotations of text can be included if you are quoting reasonable amounts and your quotation is properly cited, you don't need to get permission from the author or copyright owner. These uses are covered by the fair dealing copyright exception for quotation. Short sections of music may also be covered by the fair dealing exception, but longer, significant pieces of music may require permission.

For images, if they are third-party copyright material, then it is unlikely that it would be covered by exceptions when published in a book or journal article (unless the copyright has expired). This means that the author will need to obtain permission from the copyright holder to include them in a published work. The publisher will ask that they confirm that this has been done. There are some disciplinary exceptions.

If you're unsure of whether your use of copyright material is a fair and reasonable quotation contact us via email at

If your use of other people’s work is significant you may need to contact the copyright holder for permission.


Copyright and your thesis

If you've used other people's work in your thesis follow the guidance in the section Copyright and your thesis, and the guidance found here.

You'll also need to consider the options for making theses Open Acces.You can contact us at if you need further information or assistance with Open Access.


Using pre-existing content or data in your research

Facts can't be protected by copyright or any other type of intellectual property right. However, databases and datasets may be protected by copyright or database rights: check if there's a licence and what the conditions of use are. For example, geospatial data will typically come with a licence, which may be open source, or may require you to agree to terms and possibly pay a licence fee.

You may be using existing creative works such as photographs or films as part of your research. If you have permission to use them from the copyright holder then all you need to do is abide by the terms of that agreement. You can also rely on copyright exceptions such as "non-commercial research and private study" if your use is fair. Please contact us if you need any help with this.


Clearing copyright for academic publications

If your work is going to be published in a book, journal or similar output your publisher is likely to ask you to clear copyright in all the content you want to include. Examples of these would be significant textual quotations, photographs, illustrations, diagrams or musical scores.

In some cases, getting permission from copyright owners can be difficult or costly and you may want to discuss with your publisher whether your use is covered by fair dealing exceptions. It's also possible that you can't identify or get in touch with the copyright owners of the content you want to reproduce. These are known as "orphan works" (see below).

If you need support in addressing the copyright issues and liaising with your publisher on this please contact us.


Working with archival material and orphan works

If your research involves working with archival material created within the last 100 years, it's likely that it will be protected by copyright. Most unpublished archival material from earlier than this is still in copyright in the UK.

Rights clearance in archival material

If you want to digitise and make these works available, you need to factor rights time on clearance into your research project. How much time and effort you will need, depend on the material you're working with. For example, if you're working with archival material that has multiple copyright owners who would likely object to the material being made available, you will need to put significant resource into it.

Orphan works

In some cases it may not be possible to identify or get in touch with the copyright owner at all. These works are called orphan works and there are licensing schemes and exceptions in the UK that could allow you to make them available.


Text and data mining

If you are using text and data mining (TDM) to undertake automated analysis of your datasets, you need to address the copyright issues.

Text and data mining involves copying and normalising your data. If this is protected by copyright or database rights you will need to either have a licence from the copyright owner or determine that the TDM exception applies to your activity. This exception allows you to apply TDM to any copyright works for non-commercial research purposes, as long as you have lawful access.


If you have any questions about copyright, email


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 reading lists. 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.


This information in no way substitutes for formal legal advice. If you are in any doubt or require further information we recommend you consult with Legal Services.

This work, "Copyright", is a derivative of "Copyright what you need to know" by the University of Kent, used under CC BY 2.0, and it is using copyrighted images/videos. "Copyright" is licensed under CC BY 2.0 by the University of Southampton. Please see below separate license for images/videos used. All images/videos used and edited with permission.


Illustrative image. Copyright protects and allows sharing.    Image from 01:08 video ‘Copyright & Creativity’ by released under CC-BY 3.0  license.Image from 01:08 video ‘Copyright & Creativity’ by released under CC-BY 3.0  license.

illustrattive image of copyright and a lock. Photo: iStock-656591624Image © iStock-656591624


Illustrative image of creative common copyright. Image from 02:28 video ‘Copyright & Creativity’ by released under CC-BY 3.0  license.Image from 02:28 video ‘Copyright & Creativity’ by released under CC-BY 3.0  license.

Illustrative image showing light tower at sea. Image by under CC-BY 3.0  license.Image by under CC-BY 3.0  license.


Video ‘Copyright & Creativity’ by released under CC-BY 3.0  license.

Illustrative image  showing a peson and icons of education. Image istockphoto-509366330

Image © istockphoto-509366330


Illustrative image of copyright logo. Image iStock-1138068503

Image © iStock-113806850


Illustrative image of a book. Image: quote-shutterstock_374848786

Image © shutterstock_374848786


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