Copyright and studying

How much copying can you do? Advice on copying and scanning whilst studying at UWE Bristol.

Copyright and studying

Almost all the learning resources that you use as a student will be covered by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You need to understand the basics of copyright so that you obey the law, avoid plagiarism, and know how to protect your work.

Fortunately, there are 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.

Copyright exceptions

Copying for private study and research

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.

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 an assignment. 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.

Shorter quotations of a few words or sentences may be used to illustrate a point, but not to replace using your own words. These must also be correctly acknowledged. See our guides on referencing for more details.

Disabled users and copying into alternative formats

An accessible copy is a copy that has been changed to make it easier to read by a student with a disability. UK copyright law permits a disabled student, or library staff, to make an accessible copy of items in the Library's collection, except where a suitable commercial copy is available to purchase at a reasonable cost. The library has an Alternative Formats Service that can do this copying for you.

In order to make the alternative format copy, the following conditions apply:

  • The disabled person, or UWE Bristol library, must own the item to be copied
  • The item must not be already available in the relevant alternative format

Ask a librarian for more information about requesting accessible copies.


The University has also taken out a number of licences which permit its students and staff to copy more than is allowed by the Act, although what can be copied is still strictly limited. The most important of these for students is the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA)  license which gives permissions to copy and reuse content from print and digital publications. This covers such things as class handouts. You will see posters above all photocopiers in the library detailing how much you can copy under the license.

Other licences

Below is a list of links to the major licences with which the University has agreements. For further information about these licences, please Ask a Librarian.

Educational Recording Agency (ERA)

An ERA licence permits educational establishments to record off-air, and make copies, for non-commercial educational purposes, of programmes broadcast by its members. It also permits electronic communication of licensed recordings within an educational establishment.

Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA)

The NRA licence provides annual blanket permissions to copy and reuse content from print and digital newspaper publications.

Ordnance Survey 

The Ordnance survey license allows students, researchers, and those delivering teaching and learning to use Ordnance Survey mapping data as part of their learning.

Using images in your work

Finding images to spice up your presentation can be a challenge, Just because an image is easily accessible on the internet does not mean that it is in the public domain as far as copyright is concerned. Fortunately there are lots of images available which have been licensed under Creative Commons licenses. There are different types of Creative Commons license but all of the CC licences require that users attribute the creator of the work.

You can use Advanced search in Google to find images that are licensed for reuse and Creative Commons Search lets you search across a range of CC licensed resources (images and media) provided by various organisations including Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. There are also many other image resources offering copyright-free images that can be used for educational purposes.

Copying by non-UWE Bristol visitors to the library

Copying limits are the same as for UWE Bristol students and staff, as long as the copying is for non-commercial research, private study, criticism, review or reporting of current events.

Back to top