If you wish to copy or scan Library materials you need to ensure you comply with copyright law. This page will give you a basic understanding of copyright. However, as it is not the role of the Library to give legal advice, please read the disclaimer below before reading on.


Legal disclaimer

This page is intended to give a general outline of copyright. it does not constitute legal advice and the University of London accepts no responsibility for any misinterpretation or inaccuracy the pages may contain nor for any loss or damage incurred as a result of acting upon information provided here. It is your responsibility to ensure that any copying you undertake in the Library does not constitute an infringement of copyright law. Breach of copyright may result in prosecution.


What is copyright?

  • Copyright gives authors and others who produce creative works legal ownership of their work, for a period of time
  • It applies to literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works, sound recordings and films, and the typographical arrangement of published editions
  • These works are protected by copyright automatically, so long as they are original and recorded in a tangible form; works do not need a © symbol to be protected by copyright
  • Copyright is a form of intellectual property that may be sold, transferred or inherited, which means it is not necessarily owned by the author of the work


How long does copyright last?

  • For published literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works, copyright normally lasts for the author’s lifetime, plus an additional 70 years
  • If the author of a work is unknown, copyright normally expires 70 years after the work was created or published
  • The typographical arrangement of any work published in the last 25 years will be protected by copyright, even if the copyright in the text has expired
  • Quite often a physical item will contain more than one copyright work; for example, in history of art book, the text, the images and the typographical arrangement are separate copyright works
  • If a work is a new edition of a previous work it may be protected by copyright — even if the original edition is not — if the new edition has been significantly modified. This could apply to translations and new arrangements of musical scores, for example
  • If an image is in itself a photograph of another work that is out of copyright — e.g. a photograph of the Mona Lisa — the photograph will have its own copyright, which may still be in force
  • Copyright in unpublished works is more complex, and the copyright in many unpublished works will not expire until 31 Dec 2039
  • Government and Parliamentary material is subject to copyright for 125 years after the year it was created, although this is shortened to 50 years if the work is published within the first 75 years. It is generally permissible to copy this material, but see the National Archives website for guidance on what is permitted



University of London theses are treated as archival material, and may only be copied if the author has consented to copying

  • In general, authors who deposited theses in the Library after 1962 gave permission for their theses to be copied, although this does not apply to some theses, particularly those deposited between 1962 and 1975
  • Theses deposited before 1962 may not be copied without the author’s permission


Copying copyright works

If the copyright in a work has not expired, you may only copy the work if you have the permission of the copyright owner — usually the author or the publisher — or if your copying is permitted by copyright law.


Copyright law

  • Copyright law attempts to strike a balance between the interests of copyright owners, and the interests of society. This means that copying of copyright works is permitted without the permission of the copyright owner in certain situations
  • The situations where this is allowed — known as statutory exceptions — are only vaguely defined, so it is always best to be cautious; a copyright owner can always prosecute you if they believe their rights have been affected by what you have done, and you would need to prove that you were acting within the law
  • Some of the most relevant statutory exceptions are given below


Fair-dealing for non-commercial research or private study

  • Copies may only be used for the purposes of non-commercial research or private study
  • In order to ensure your copying is ‘fair dealing’, it is advisable to limit the amount you copy to around 5% of an item
  • This exception would not apply if multiple people were given access to any copies made
  • The source of the material should be acknowledged


Fair-dealing for criticism, review or reporting current events

  • In order to ensure your copying is ‘fair dealing’, it is advisable to limit the amount you copy to around 5% of an item
  • This exception does not apply to photographs
  • The source should be acknowledge, unless impracticable — e.g. it might be impractable to acknowledge a source fully in a new broadcast, but not in a written review


Copying for the purposes of examination

  • It does not infringe copyright if copies are made for the purposes of communicating an examination question or answering an examination question, provided the copying is ‘fair dealing’
  • This exception could permit you to include a copy of an image in a dissertation, for example, but only if it is required to support your answer. Copying simply for the purposes of studying for an examination is not permitted by this exception


Copying by library staff

  • Library staff can make copies on your behalf, provided the copying is ‘fair dealing’ (see above)
  • You would need to sign a declaration stating that the copies are required for non-commercial research or private study
  • This exception does not permit Library staff to copy entire, published artistic works (e.g. photographs, illustrations, maps), except where they are copied within the context of another work. This means you could request a copy of a chapter including any illustrations, but not the illustrations by themselves. Unpublished artistic works can be copied in their entirety
  • Furthermore, Library staff cannot copy more than one article from the same journal issue under this exception

Copyright questions

I have a copy of a Beethoven score that was published in 1990. Can I copy the entire work, as Beethoven’s work is clearly out of copyright?

Probably not. If the score is a new arrangement, the person who rearranged the score will be an additional author. If the score is a facsimile, the publisher may claim that each page is a photograph of the original score, and that it owns the copyright in the photographs.


Can I make a scan of an article on my reading list, and send a copy to some of my colleagues who are on the same course?

No. This is not considered fair-dealing. Each person would need to make their own copy. However, normally your college or institution would have a licence that permits this, but the copying would need to be initiated by an authorised person there.


I am working on my history of art dissertation, and there are several images that I would like to include in my dissertation. Can I scan them?

Yes, so long as you only include them in the dissertation to support your answer.


I need to consult a book that is Reference Only in Senate House Library. I have been unable to purchase a copy. Does this mean I can copy the whole book?

No. Unfortunately, you cannot automatically copy a whole book just because it is out of print. You should contact the publisher for permission.


I want to copy two chapters of a book for non-commercial research or private study. Can I do this?

Copyright law does not specify how much of a book can be copied for non-commercial research or private study. 5% is generally understood to be acceptable, so two chapters would probably be acceptable if this does not equate to more than 5% of the book. This is not a hard and fast rule however: the point is, authors (and publishers) would prefer you to purchase their books rather than copying them, but equally, the law does not expect you to necessarily purchase a book or journal in order to obtain one chapter or article. You should therefore consider honestly whether the amount you are copying is ‘reasonable’.


Other information