Copyright and research for students Copyright and research for students

It is very likely you will need to use copyright material - for example, books, journal articles or websites - when undertaking research for assignments or other personal 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 that which would constitute fair dealing

Provided you have only made a single copy of a limited (fair) amount of a copyright work which is directly relevant to your studies, and provided you acknowledge that work in your finished work you are unlikely to be infringing anyone's copyright. See Copyright: Essential Information for further guidance on establishing how much can be copied from a work. 

You are not required to delete copies you have made on completion of your work; however any copies should not be distributed or sold. 

Acknowledging other people's work Acknowledging other people's work

Any use of copyright material should be accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement (e.g. in the bibliography of a finished essay or report). 

The only exception to this is where it would be impossible in practice to acknowledge the source of your extract – for example, in a sound recording, film or broadcast.

Correct and consistent referencing of other people's work not only demonstrates you respect intellectual property rights; it can also help you avoid plagiarism. For more information on plagiarism, see the UEA Learning Enhancement Team website.

Including quotations in your essays, reports etc. Including quotations in your essays, reports etc.

You can include brief quotations and/or short extracts from copyright works in your assignments, without seeking permission of the rights holder(s).

The source of these extracts must be sufficiently acknowledged and the extent of the quotation must be limited to what is required for the specific purpose.

Copyright and the internet Copyright and the internet

Most websites are free to view and content can easily be downloaded, however they are almost certain to be subject to copyright. 

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.

Images, films, TV programmes, software, games

Bear in mind that fair dealing is unlikely to apply to images and by copying these you may be infringing copyright. Illegal downloading of copyright material such as films, ebooks, games, TV programmes or software must be avoided. In addition to being a breach of copyright law, such activities are contrary to the University's Conditions of Computer Use

Rights holders can – and do – use tools to search for unauthorised copies of their work and by reusing images or downloading content without permission you may be putting yourself and the University at risk of legal action.

Copyright and theses & dissertations Copyright and theses & dissertations

Theses and dissertations written by other students are often available online, or may be accessed in hard copy from UEA or other libraries. While these works may be valuable for your own studies, they are also very likely to be subject to copyright. As such there are limits to what can be copied or used.

Copying UEA and non-UEA theses:

Theses are now readily accessible via sites such as the British Library's EThOS service and also individual institutional repositories including the UEA Digital Repository. All use of thesis material should be limited to what can be considered fair dealing. As a general rule, a single copy of no more than 5% of any thesis may be made by the user solely for private non-commercial study and research.

If you would like to make further use of theses or dissertations written by others you will need to seek permission of the rights holder. See 'Going beyond Fair Dealing' section below for details.  

Including third party copyright work in your thesis or dissertation 

For information on how to use other people's copyright work in your own thesis or dissertation, including further information on seeking permission of rights holders, see guidance from UEA Library: Your thesis and copyright

For information on copyright in the work you create at UEA, see My Copyright (for students).

Copyright and criticism & review Copyright and criticism & review

Within the confines of fair dealing you are free to use any copyright work - with the exception of a photograph - for the purposes of criticism, review and the reporting of current events, or events of current public interest. 

You must sufficiently acknowledge the source of the copyright works where possible to do so (this requirement does not apply if you are creating sound recordings, films or broadcasts). 

The copyright work that is the subject of your criticism or review must have been made available to the public. 

Copyright and caricature, parody or pastiche Copyright and caricature, parody or pastiche

A limited amount of a copyright work (or works) can be amended or reused for the purpose of creating a caricature, parody or pastiche, without seeking permission of the rights holder.

Note this recent change to copyright law has no impact on the law of libel or slander. Furthermore, creators of a copyright work have a moral right under copyright law to object to derogatory treatment of their work.

Text and data mining Text and data mining

Students can make use of copyright material held within Library databases for the purpose of non-commercial computational analyses (text and data mining), without seeking permissions from the individual rights holders

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

You should provide sufficient acknowledgement of copied works, however it may be impractical to cite every work in a large-scale analysis. In such a case you should instead refer to the database(s) used. 

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