Copyright protects authors, film makers, photographers and other creators from having their work used without permission.

Staff and students will use copyrighted material such as books, music, films and other works created by others. These can be resources you have purchased, borrowed from the library or found online. You can copy from these copyrighted  sources for your own non-commercial research and private study but there are limits as to how much and what you can copy.

The University holds the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Higher Education Licence. This licence covers most printed books and magazines published in the UK, plus many published overseas and a large number of digital publications.  The CLA HE Licence has set limits as to how much and what can be copied by university staff and students and this is summarised in the CLA Notice for Display which is posted beside all copiers and printers in the University. All staff and students are recommended to familiarise themselves with the limits of the licence.

The CLA also have a useful Check Permissions Tool that lets you check that the material you want to copy is covered by the  CLA HE licence. The university also holds a number of other licences that allow copying from newspapers and some TV channels.  

‘Fair dealing’ is an exception allowable in UK Copyright Law that allows anyone to copy from copyrighted material. Unlike The CLA HE Licence, the amounts that can be copied are not defined. As there are no are no defined limits of what is fair, each individual must make a judgement and decide whether their copying is fair if they are relying on 'fair dealing' as their defence. Questions that might help you decide whether the use is fair are:

Below are some FAQs that you may find useful regarding copying for private study and research. If, however, you have any other questions you should contact your Academic Librarian.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is copyright?

Copyright law protects the economic rights of authors and publishers by prohibiting copying of their works except in certain circumstances.

Copyright protection begins when a work is created, whether written, photographed, recorded, etc., and lasts, in most cases, for 70 years from the end of the year of death of the author. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 sets out the circumstances where copying is permitted. 

When using photocopiers, scanners and computers within the University you must keep within the law. The University holds a Copyright Licencing Agency Higher Education Licence that allows, subject to its terms and conditions, copies to be made by all staff and students. 

What is the CLA Higher Education Licence and how much can I copy under this licence?

The CLA Higher Education licence provides blanket permission to photocopy from millions of books and journals and from a range of digital materials including ebooks. There are limits to how much you can copy and these are:

  • One chapter from a book.
  • One article from 1 issue of a journal.
  • One whole report of a single case from a volume of judicial proceedings. 
  • One short story, poem or play (not exceeding 10 pages in length) from an anthology.
  • One whole scene from a play.
  • One whole paper from a set of conference proceedings.
  • Or, 10% of any of the above whichever is the greater.
What is fair dealing?

Fair dealing is a legal term used to establish whether a use of copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright. There is no legal definition of fair dealing so it will always be a judgment that you have to make. The questions to ask are:

  • "Have I used only what I needed to illustrate/instruct the students"? 
  • "How would a fair-minded person have dealt with the work"? 
  • Have I acknowledged  the work  appropriately"?

Although the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act does not clearly define the amount of original material that can be copied, the limits allowed under the CLA HE licence are often used as a guide as to what might be considered fair. However, in some cases the amount that you can copy may well be less.

Unless there is a specific reason why you cannot acknowledge the sources, there must be sufficient acknowledgment of the copyright owner and source of the material if the use is to be considered fair.

What are the main differences between copying under the Copyright Licencing Agency Higher Education (CLA HE) Licence, and copying under the fair dealing exception?
  • The CLA He licence allows copying by Abertay staff and students. Fair dealing applies to any library user and allows them to copy materials for their own private research or study.
  • The CLA HE licence allows multiple copies of a book chapter or journal article to be made for students on a particular module. Fair dealing does not allow multiple copies to be made. The CLA HE Licence also allows a chapter to be scanned and uploaded to Blackboard for students on a course (please note that the scanning can only be carried out by Library staff). Scanning of chapters for uploading to Blackboard is cannot be done under fair dealing.
  • The CLA HE licence allows copying for research that is commercially funded. Fair dealing applies only to copying for non-commercial private research.
  • Materials that can be copied under the CLA HE licence can be copied under fair dealing but not all material that can be copied under fair dealing can be copied under the CLA HE licence
What about copying and resuing material for inclusion in a thesis or dissertation?

There is an exception in Copyright law "Illustration for Instruction" that allows students to use copyright material in coursework and theses.  The amount must be 'fair' i.e. fall within the fair dealing provision. Fair dealing is not defined in copyright law but as a general rule you should use no more of the material than you need to and you should always acknowledge the source by referencing it correctly. Reuse of the work should not negatively impact on sales of the original material. 

Abertay PhD and Masters by Research theses will be deposited electronically in the Universitys' research portal and made available to the public through the British Library EThOS service. When the thesis is published online, the exception "Illustration for Instruction" no longer applies. However, you may still be able to include insubstantial amounts of third party copyright material by using the exception for" Criticism, Review and Quotation".

For example, you may quote from literary and other works (e.g., musical, artistic, film) provided the work has been made available to the public, the use is fair, the extent of the quotation is no more than absolutely necessary and the use is acknowledged. However, it is good academic practice to request permission for use of third party material in your thesis. You are encouraged to do this as early as possible as it can take time to get permission from the copyright holder.

Can I include published articles where I am the author in my e-thesis?

If you want to include the published version of an article in your thesis, this may be possible: 

However, in many cases when publishing their research authors transfer the copyright of their paper to the publisher. If you have not retained the copyright then you will need to write to the publisher to ask for permission to include the article in your thesis as it is is unlikely that the fair dealing exception would cover this. 

If you are unable to add the published version of the article to your thesis, then it may be possible to add the post-print version of the article to your thesis as many publishers will let you use this version. The post print is the version which has been peer reviewed but does not have the publisher's formatting added. You can use Sherpa/Romeo to check the publisher's copyright and self-archiving policies and library staff are happy to advise on this. Email: for advice. 

It is your responsibility to ensure that the material in your thesis does not infringe Copyright Law. If you are unable to get permission from the copyright owner or if they wish to charge for its inclusion in your electronic thesis then you can just link to the publisher’s website in the relevant section of your thesis. You should discuss such cases with your supervisor.

More information about copyright can be found online at Copyright User - an online resource aimed at making UK copyright law accessible to creators, media professionals, entrepreneurs, students, and members of the public.

Where can I find images and videos that I can use outwith the normal copyright restrictions?

There are now many sources of information including videos and images on the internet that are created under licences such Creative Commons Licences that allow the content to be re- used and in some cases adapted for re-use. For help on finding material licensed in this way have a look at Newspapers & multimedia.

I am making a video for my coursework. What kind of things do I need to consider?

Always read and follow the guidelines in your module handbook regarding any assignment. These guidelines will include information and advice about copyright as well as information regarding student regulations. Some things that you will definitely need to consider are:

  • Where will the completed video be posted e.g. on a public website such as Youtube or just internally on Blackboard? If it is posted on an external website you will need to make sure you understand and abide by the terms of use for the website.
  • Does your video contain any third party copyrighted material? This is copyrighted material that has been created by another person. You should try not include any third party copyrighted material within your video. If you need to include third party copyright material you should seek written permission from the copyright owner. There are many sources of copyright free music and images available. The Creative Commons Website contains a listing of sites that offer music published under a creative commons licence you can use the Creative Commons search to find images that you can use in your video.  More information is available on our multimedia pages.
  • Will your video be filmed in a public place? If you are fliming in a privately owned space, e.g., museum, library, shop, etc. you should obtain permission to film there.

Training and Guides

Jisc have produced a useful Copyright Guide for Students 

If you need further information, please contact your Academic Librarian.

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