Staff and students will regularly use copyrighted material such as books, music, films and other works. 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. This guidance is designed to help students and researchers understand the copyright issues involved in using 3rd party copyright material. This guidance does not cover the University’s Intellectual Property (IP) Policy or copyright issues related to teaching.

Although the University has a responsibility to ensure that students and researchers are aware of copyright and comply with the law, it is the responsibility of the person making the copy to ensure that they do not infringe copyright.

Copyright law aims to strike a balance between the rights of the copyright owner to control how their work is used and the rights of re-use, such as 'Fair Dealing'. It does this by providing some useful exceptions that allows copyright material to be copied. Abertay also holds a number of licences that allow 3rd party copyright material to be used without infringing copyright. The most important exception for students and researchers is the ‘fair dealing’ exception for copying for non-commercial research and private study.

Copying for non-commercial research and private study

Researchers and students are allowed to copy limited extracts of works for non-commercial research and private study. This includes text, images, sound and video recordings. The amount is limited by fair dealing and must be sufficiently acknowledged. The amount which may be copied is not specified by the legislation but often the amounts listed below are used as a rule of thumb to decide if the copying is fair. However, in some cases fair dealing could be more or less than these limits. The person copying must decide if the use is fair.  

  • One chapter or up to 5% of a book, whichever is the greater;
  • One article from a journal issue or set of conference proceedings;
  • One short story or poem of up to 10 pages from an anthology;
  • One case from a law report.

 CLA HE licence

The university also holds the CLA HE Licence (Copyright licensing Agency Higher Education Licence), which allows Abertay students, staff and researchers to copy material within specific limits. The terms of use of the CLA HE Licence are displayed beside all university copiers and printers.  

If you need help or advice regarding copyright, please email or contact your academic librarian.

FAQs- General copyright queries

What is copyright and what does it protect?

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.

The most useful fair dealing exceptions for students and researchers are: 

  • Private study or non-commercial research –  S. 29
  • Text or data analysis - S. 29A
  • Critique or review the work - S. 30
  • Make a direct quote from a work –  S. 30
  • Copy a work for the purposes of caricature, parody and pastiche - S. 30A
  • Perform a play or reading for educational purposes –  S. 34
  • Play a sound recording, film or broadcast for educational purposes –  S. 34 

More information on the exceptions is available from Gov.UK.





How long does copyright protection last?

Copyright protection begins when a work is created. Once it has expired, anyone can use or copy the work. The duration of  copyright depends on several factors including the type of work, whether it is published or unpublished, whether the creator is known or unknown and whether transitional arrangements from previous copyright legislation apply. The list below is a useful guide to start from when deciding if material is still in copyright.

Type of work Duration of copyright
Written, dramatic, musical and artistic work 70 years after author's death
Sound and music recording 70 years from when it was first published
Films 70 years after the death of the director, screenplay author and composer
Broadcasts 50 years from when it was first broadcast
Layout of published editions of written dramatic or musical works 25 years from when it was first published 

What copyright licences does the university hold?

The university holds the following licences:

If you need further information on any of these licences, please email: or contact your academic librarian. 

What is fair dealing?

'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 judgment 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:

  •  Is the amount copied reasonable and appropriate to the context?
  •  Have I copied no more than I need to?
  •  Does the copying negatively affect sales of the work?
  •  Have I acknowledged the work appropriately?

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

What are Creative Commons licences and how do they work?

Creative Commons offers a simple method for licensing the reuse of a copyright-protected work. The Creative Commons web site offers a choice of predefined licences using concise symbols that can be combined in different ways.

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

There are many sources of information including videos and images on the internet which are created under licences such Creative Commons Licenses that allow the content to be re- used and in some cases adapted for re-use. You can use the Creative Commons Search to search for free content in the public domain and under Creative Commons licenses. 

Guidance on finding images is also available on the Abertay library's Newspapers and multimedia guide.

Information on best practices for crediting images is available from Even if you find a CC0 image, it is best practice to provide an attribution.

What are the most common copyright myths?

A list of the most common Copyright misconceptions and misunderstandings is produced by the UK Copyright service

FAQs - Using copyright material for coursework

Can I include copyright material in my coursework?

The Fair Dealing exceptions will allow you to include what you like when answering an exam question or creating a course work that is to be assessed. You must only copy what is required for the purpose of answering the question or illustrating the point and no more. The copyright material must always be properly acknowledged unless this is not possible. 

I am making a video for my course work. What copyright issues 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:

  • Does your video contain any 3rd party copyrighted material?

 This is copyrighted material that has been created by another person. You should try not to include any 3rd party copyrighted material within your video. 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 license and 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.

If you need to include third party copyright material in your course work video it may be possible to include very small amounts of copyright material  if it is 'insubstantial' or 'incidental', or is covered by one of the fair dealing exceptions e.g. Illustration for Instruction or Criticism Review or Quotation. For fair dealing you must use no more than is required and there must be sufficient acknowledgment. However, you also need to consider what happens to your video after the assignment. If  the video is to be made openly available then you could not rely on the fair dealing exceptions and you may well need to get written permission from the copyright owner.

  • Where will the completed video be posted or shown. e.g. on a public website such as YouTube or just internally on My Learning Space? 

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 and make sure that you own the copyright in all the material created or have written permission from the copyright owner to use their material. 

  • Will your video be filmed in a public place?

 If you are filming in a privately owned space, e.g., museum, library, shop, etc. you should obtain permission to film there.

FAQs - Copyright and e-theses

Are there any copyright implications that I should consider when making my PhD or MbR thesis available as an e-thesis?

Copyright law does allow referenced quotation of other people's work. If you have used 3rd party copyright material you should  usually be able to rely on one of the 'fair dealing' exceptions such as illustration for instruction, or criticism, review or quotation to include this material for the purpose of examination. Remember the use must be fair.

The fair dealing exclusions may also cover the use of very small amounts of 3rd party copyright material in the e-thesis but our advice, and best practice, is to contact the rights holder to ask for permission to include the material in your e-thesis. Remember if a copyright owner challenged the use of their material in your e-thesis you would need to be confident that you could defend its inclusion using one of the copyright exceptions if you have not obtained their written consent.

Obtaining permission to use 3rd party copyright content can be a lengthy process so we recommend that you start as soon as possible. If the rights holder does not reply within a reasonable length of time, you should contact them again, as you cannot interpret a lack of response as permission to go ahead. If you need advice on contacting publishers, then email and library staff will be happy to advise. You can use or adapt the suggested wording below when contacting the copyright owner for permission.

 Dear Sir/Madam

I am a PhD student at Abertay University and I am contacting you to seek permission to include the following material within the electronic version of my PhD thesis:

[Provide full details of the material you intend to include]

The thesis will be deposited in the university's open access repository,, which is a non-commercial repository and openly available to all. A copy of the thesis will also be available from the British Library Electronic Thesis service EThOS. A full citation will be included to acknowledge the copyright holder of the material included in the thesis.

If you are not the rights holder for this material I would be grateful if you could let me know who I should contact for permission. If you require any further information, please let me know.

Thank you for your help.

Yours faithfully

If you are unable to obtain permission to include the copyright material in your e-thesis you can choose to submit a redacted thesis with the copyright material removed to an appendix which will be embargoed. The inclusion of copyright material in your e-thesis requiring an embargo should be detailed on the Embargo Request Form (RD08) available from the research support pages. If you need to submit a redacted thesis to Abertay's Open Access repository, email for advice.

Students are never expected to pay fees requested by copyright owners to include 3rd party copyright material in their e-thesis.

Can I include PDFs of my published articles in my e-thesis?

If you want to include the published version of r research papers or book chapters in your thesis, this may be possible:

  • If you retained the copyright of the article or chapter.
  • If the article was published under a Creative Commons License.

However, in many cases when publishing their research, authors transfer the copyright of their material 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 for example the published article in your e-thesis as it is is unlikely that the fair dealing exception would cover this. ( However, Inclusion of the articles in your examination copy would usually be covered by one of the fair dealing exceptions).

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 e-thesis. You can use Sherpa/Romeo service to check the publisher's copyright and self-archiving policies, and library staff are happy to advise on this. Email: for advice. 

The ideal is to make your e-thesis openly available with no redacted or embargoed content, and students are expected to make best efforts to seek permission. However, if you are unable to obtain permission because the rights owner does not reply / wants to charge you for using the material / does not reply, or the task of tracing the rights owner is very onerous, then you will not be penalised if you need to redact 3rd party copyright material from your e-thesis. If you need to redact material fro myour e-thesis then please email: for advice. 

FAQs - Copyright and Research

Can I use text and data mining for my research at the University?

Yes.  UK copyright law allows researchers to make copies of works ‘for text and data analysis’. This means that where a user has lawful access to a work (e.g. an e-journal or database subscription) they can make a copy of it for the purpose of carrying out a computational analysis of anything recorded in the work.

The exception only applies under the following conditions:

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

Copyright is infringed if the copy made is transferred to another person, or it is used for purposes different than those permitted by law. Copies made for text and data analysis cannot be sold or let for hire.

I am presenting at a conference ? do I need to worry about copyright?

Yes.When presenting your research at a conference,Copyright guidance concerning the incorporation of other people’s work into your research still applies.

You should ensure you have permission to use any 3rd party materials unless the material is licensed for re-use with a Creative Commons License or copyright has expired. You may also be able to use extracts of works under one of the fair dealing exceptions. However, bear in mind that many conference presentations are recorded and shared online making any breaches of copyright a higher risk. If you need further advice, email or contact your academic librarian.

Can I upload and share my articles online using websites such as ResearchGate and

The answer is maybe but caution is required as some publishers do not allow sharing of work on 'for-profit' or commercial repositories, which both these websites are.

If you want to share full text versions of your articles in this way you should check the version of the work that the publishers permit sharing via these platforms. Usually, it is the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) that the publisher allows to be shared and not the published version, and, often, there will be an embargo period before these versions can be made openly available. The AAM is the version of the paper at the point of acceptance, following peer-review, but not yet formatted for publication. You should also check the terms of use for the service where you are uploading content. It is also worth noting that many of these services clearly state that it is the profile owner who is responsible for ensuring that they have permission to upload any 3rd party copyright material. 

In most cases a full text version of your research output will already be available from Abertay's Open Access repository. All open access content posted on Abertay's repository has been checked to ensure that it compiles with the publisher's self-archiving policy.