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All copyright guidance for staff and students

What is copyright?

Copyright exists to make sure that creators are acknowledged for their works – being paid in some cases.

Most work that is created is covered by copyright or intellectual property rights

  • literary works - books, journal articles, newspaper columns, personal letters, emails, computer programmes, song lyrics, handouts and leaflets etc.
  • artistic works - paintings, photographs, illustrations, logos, maps etc.
  • musical works - compositions, recordings, performances, etc.

Copyright items must be original, ‘fixed’ and show skill or judgement by the creator or creators – but they don’t need to have been published, registered or marked with a copyright symbol ‘©’.

It is the variety of sources, and the terms under which they are supplied, that makes it difficult to know what is allowed, what is forbidden, and what can be done by negotiation, licence or exception.

What rules apply to copyright?

  • Legislation – known as ‘Statute law’ (e.g. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 in the UK) gives copyright-holders certain rights.

  • What rights the law gives, and for how long, varies according to where in the world the item was created.

  • The original owner of these rights can keep them, sell them, leave them in their will or give them away to someone else.

  • Rights-holders will often allow you to use some or all of their rights by using licenses or granting specific permissions.

  • Licenses or permissions make clear which rights you are able to use and tell you how you can use these rights.

  • If there is no license available – or if there is a license but neither you nor we have bought it – then the statute law applies.

Are there any exceptions to copyright law?

The UK’s copyright law makes some narrow exceptions to the general restrictions. Read about them on the Government’s Intellectual Property Office website.

The exceptions that you might find most useful are:

  • non-commercial research and private study

  • criticism, review or quotation, and

  • parody, caricature or pastiche

If you rely on these exceptions, you must also use the concept of ‘fair dealing’. This means such things as:

  • Use the least amount of material necessary for what you need to do

  • Make sure that it won’t lose the copyright-owner money

  • Only do what another person would think is reasonable

  • Always acknowledge the creator of the work

As a general guide, if you choose to copy something for your own studies, you should keep to these limits:

  • Up to one chapter of a book

  • Up to one whole article from a single issue of a journal or set of conference proceedings

  • One short story or poem from an anthology, not more than 10 pages in length

  • Or 10% of the whole publication

If you have a disability that makes it difficult to access works as easily as people without a disability, there are exceptions that allow you – or someone working for you – to copy or change items to make them more accessible for you.

How does this affect me?

  • Just because you can access something legitimately doesn’t mean you can do anything you like with it

  • You can only copy an item if there is a license, an exception, or some other form of permission from the copyright-holder. The same applies to ‘communicating the item to the public’ – which includes putting something onto a website.

  • Don’t assume that the copyright-holder will be happy for you to do what you want - check that you have permission before you do anything which infringes their rights.

  • If you have access to an e-book or a journal article through being a student at Birmingham Newman, you don’t have the right to pass it on to someone who is not a student here.

  • Never share your username and password with anyone else.

  • If you have a job, or are on placement, you can’t use your student resources to help your employer.

  • Don’t use images or documents you have found on the Web unless you have checked their terms of use. If you can’t find permission on the website, the best approach is not to use it. Look for copyright-cleared images, or ones with a Creative Commons licence.

  • If you do use images or documents, acknowledge them in your work.

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