Copyright and research

As a researcher you will want to protect your own work and you will also want to make fair use of works produced by others.

Copyright for researchers

As a researcher you are likely to want to copy information from books, journals and web resources to support your research. You may also want to include this material in your thesis or when publishing your research. The work you produce and publish will also be protected by copyright.

Fortunately, there are some exceptions under the current law that allow you to copy for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study within reasonable limits, under what is known as 'fair dealing'. This generally permits you to make single copies of small amounts of a copyright work.

Copying for criticism and review: quoting others’ work

There will be times when you wish to include, or make reference to, material which is not your own (i.e. which is someone else’s copyright) when completing your thesis. It is legitimate to include quotations for the purposes of criticism and review, but you must make sure that such material is properly acknowledged or cited.

Copying for non-commercial research or private study

Copyright allows making single copies or taking short extracts of works when the use is made for non-commercial research or for private study. The purpose is to provide students and researchers broader access to copyright works. There is no exact definition of what is considered a 'fair' amount, however below is some guidance on what would be considered fair

  • One article in a single issue of a journal or set of conference proceedings, or a single law report;
  • An extract from a book amounting to 5% of the whole or a complete chapter, whichever is greater;
  •  A whole poem or short story from a collection, provided the item is not more than 10 pages;
  • Up to 10% (maximum of 20 pages) per short book (without chapters), report, pamphlet or Standard Specification;
  • One separate illustration or map up to A4 size;
  • Short excerpts only from musical works (not whole works or movements). No copying is allowed for performance purposes.

Text and data mining

This exception allows researchers to make copies of works ‘for text and data analysis’. This means that where a user has lawful access to a work they can make a copy of it for the purpose of carrying out a computational analysis of anything recorded in the work. The exception applies under the following conditions:

  • The computational analysis must be for the purpose of non-commercial research
  • The copy is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgment (unless this is practically impossible)

Other ways to use material

If the proportion of a work that you want to include is more than what is 'fair dealing', or your intended use is not covered by the exceptions above, you could use open licensed materials.

Creative Commons licenses provide a simple, standardised way to give the public permission to share and use creative work, given certain conditions. As you do not need the permission of the copyright holder in order to use materials covered by a CC license, it is recommended that you use these materials wherever possible. You must abide by the conditions of the particular license. More information about the different kinds of CC licenses is available on the Creative Commons website.

For your own work

Using an open licence such as Creative Commons allows you to get more exposure for your work whilst maintaining control over its use. This helps the spread of information and the creation of new knowledge. Using a licence also means that other people know how to use your work in an appropriate way without infringing copyright.

Help and further information

Further guidance on using copyright material for your research and


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