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Explaining aspects of copyright to be aware of when studying, lecturing or undertaking research. Please note that information on these pages is for guidance only: it does not constitute formal legal advice.

Copyright and Students

A pencil sketch of a classroom with two adults assisting two children sat at desks.
This page gives an introduction to copyright from the point of view of students. The information here is not comprehensive but is a summary of fuller detail elsewhere in this guide.
If you copy material which is not your own during your studies it is important that you are aware of copyright and its restrictions.

What is copyright?


  • is an automatic right which allows those who create content to dictate how others can use that content
  • does not protect ideas
  • does protect the expression of ideas (e.g., writing down or drawing the idea)
  • is determined by law*.

See more about this in the 'What is Copyright' section of this guide.

*Mainly the Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988, the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations of 2003, and the Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations of 2014

What sort of material is likely to be protected by copyright?

The following are examples of works that may be protected by copyright:

  • books
  • plays
  • websites
  • blogs
  • photos
  • diagrams
  • graphs
  • films
  • charts
  • paintings
  • sculptures
  • songs
  • tunes
  • TV/radio programmes
  • CDs
  • music downloads
  • DVDs
  • filmed lectures
  • podcasts…

See more about this in the 'What is Copyright' section of this guide, including how long the copyright protection lasts for different types of works.

Online resources: websites, e-books, online databases etc.

  1. Websites: it is permissible to copy from websites according to Fair Dealing, even if there are terms and conditions that suggest otherwise.
  2. Only make a single copy for yourself unless there is explicit permission to copy more.
  3. Do not copy for commercial purposes unless there is explicit permission to do so.
  4. Always acknowledge any copies you make, including the URL and the date accessed.
  5. Library e-resources (online journals, e-books, databases): there is a licence which dictates who can use the resource and what you can do in terms of copying.  Points 2, 3 and 4 above usually apply but please check with Library Services ( if you are not sure.

What sort of copying is likely to be protected by copyright?

The following are specific ways of copying material, and are examples of things that may not be permitted if a work is copyrighted:

  • photocopying
  • scanning
  • downloading or reproducing (e.g., in an essay or dissertation) material from a website
  • emailing something you have copied
  • taking photos (for example, taking a photo of pages from a book or other copyrighted work on your phone)
  • filming (for example, filming a performance by some musicians)
  • recording or downloading (for example, music or films)
  • showing or playing material (for example, DVDs or CDs)
  • using images…

See more about this on the 'What is copyright' section of this guide.

What am I permitted to do with copyrighted material?

  • You are permitted to re-use copyrighted material if it's for one of the following purposes:
    • your own private study
    • non-commercial research
    • criticism and review - to make a critical point, to support an argument, for example in an essay, dissertation or thesis, or when answering an examination question.
  • Do not exceed safe copying limits. You may copy/scan…
    • a single chapter from a book
    • a single article from a journal issue
    • 5-10% of the whole work, even if this is more than a single chapter
  • If you're not sure, there is more information on copying in the 'Fair Dealing and how to copy legally' section of this guide.
  • Do not share copies
    • by making multiple photocopies
    • by email
    • via an online network (such as social media)
  • Always acknowledge the source of any copies you make; see below for details of and a link to the referencing guide Cite Them Right. We also have paper copies of this resource that can be borrowed.

More useful resources

* Note that these two videos were produced in the US so include some legal minutiae which do not apply in the UK. However they are useful introductions to general points about copyright.

Credit for image on this page

'connection - sketch' by emilyvalenza (CC BY-NC 2.0) Accessed from Flickr 09/07/2015