Copyright and research Copyright and research

The research process will almost always involve the use of some copyrighted information. This web page looks at how copyright affects such material used when undertaking research. For information about the copyright in your own work, see the My Copyright (for staff) web page.

Non-commercial research and private study Non-commercial research and private study

UK copyright law permits limited copying of any type of copyright material for non-commercial research or private study. The amount that can be copied is restricted to fair dealing

Use of copyright material should be accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement (e.g. in a reference or bibliography in the finished research). 

A single copy of the copyright work can be made, for yourself or for another person. See s.29 of the Act for further details. You are not required to delete the copy on completion of the research; however any copies made should not be distributed or sold.

Using quotations Using quotations

Since June 2014 researchers have greater freedom to quote the work of others. Short quotations in published academic papers or webpages (for example) will be permitted without permission of the rights holders, so long as they are necessary, relevant and comply with fair dealing.

Criticism & review and news reporting Criticism & review and news reporting

Any type of copyright work (with the exception of a photograph) may be covered by fair dealing if it is being used for the purposes of criticism, review and news reporting. You must acknowledge the source of any copyright material used and the work must have been made publicly available. See s.30 of the Act for further details.

Text and data mining Text and data mining

If you are undertaking non-commercial research you can make whole copies of any copyright material for the purpose of computational analyses (text and data mining), without seeking additional permissions from the rights holders. You must have lawful access to the copyright material – for example, if the copyright work is accessed via a subscription database, UEA Library (or, exceptionally, the individual researcher) must have a valid subscription to that database.

Researchers can also text and data mine work that is available under a Creative Commons Licence or has been made available under an open access scheme.

While researchers should provide sufficient acknowledgement of copied works, it may be impractical to cite every work in a large-scale analysis. In such a case a researcher may instead refer to the database used.

Copies made can only be used for text and data mining for non-commercial research. Any copies made should not be distributed or sold.

Research and web-based information Research and web-based information

Most websites are free to view and content can easily be downloaded, however they are almost certain to be subject to copyright and, if so, the concepts of fair dealing still apply. Some websites are explicit about what you can and can't do with content. Check the Terms of Use, or look for participation in the ‘What can I do with this content?' or Creative Commons schemes.

It can be difficult to establish whether an image or text from a website is original content, or, if not, if the site owner has permission to use that material. As a general rule, any copies made for research purposes should be from original works.

Going beyond Fair Dealing: seeking permission of the copyright owner Going beyond Fair Dealing: seeking permission of the copyright owner

If you wish to make use of copyright material in ways that would exceed fair dealing and isn't covered by one of our licences, you will need to get permission of the copyright holder. Doing this is not always straightforward and may require payment of a fee. Copyright is an automatic right and although there are services to help you find the rights holder(s) they are not comprehensive.    

If you know the creator / author of the work you wish to use, search for contact details of the rights holder(s) in the sources listed in Contacts, Links and Further Help. When contacting the rights holder:

  • Describe in detail what you want to use 
  • Describe in detail how you want to use it (state if the use is non-commercial)
  • Specify the circulation or audience that the material will reach
  • Think ahead - seek as wide a range of permissions as you think you may need
  • Keep records of all contact with the rights holder

If the rights holder provides a licence agreement for you to sign, read the small print!

If you cannot trace the rights holder, the work may be an orphan work. See the Intellectual Property Office's guidance on how to obtain a licence to use orphan works

Further help and advice is available from