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What is copyright?

'The exclusive legal right, given to the originator or their assignee for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film or record literary, artistic or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.' (The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, 2002).

The use of copyright materials in the UK must comply with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and subsequent amending legislation, including the EU Copyright Directive 2001/29/EC, implemented in the UK in 2003. The length of time copyright is applied to material varies. In the UK for literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the author (or, if the author is not known or the publication is corporate, 70 years after publication).

In general, copyright material may not be copied without the consent of the copyright owner, unless the copying falls within one of the statutory exemptions. Therefore this legislation has implications for all researchers, this section provides information about the following areas:

  • 'Fair dealing' guidelines, information about what you are allowed to copy for private study or research.
  • The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), Higher Education Institutions and 'copyright excluded' items.
  • Copyright and government publications.
  • Copyright and electronic publications.

Please note: the contents of these pages do not constitute legal advice and the University of London can not accept responsibility for any loss or damage incurred as a result of acting upon information provided here. Also, the guidelines outlined here apply to the UK only.

Further information on UK copyright protection and ownership of copyright can be found here.

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