What is copyright?
Copyright is the legal protection given to creators of certain kinds of original works. It gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to use the work in specific ways such as:
- Communicate to the public by electronic transmission or by renting/lending copies
- Perform in public.
Anyone who infringes those rights by using the work without the permission of the copyright owner can be sued for damages.
In the UK the legal framework, including what is protected and for how long, is laid out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and subsidiary legislation and subsequent Statutory Instruments.
What is protected?
- Literary, dramatic and musical works, which include computer programs, web pages and designs for databases
- Artistic works, which includes photographs, maps and charts
- Sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programmes
- Typographical arrangements of published editions: the way the words are arranged on the pages of a literary, dramatic or musical work.
Exceptions to copyright
To use any type of copyrighted work, the permission of the copyright holder is essential. However the 1988 Act includes circumstances where permission is not necessary. The most important of these for academic institutions are the following ‘fair dealing’ exceptions allowing individuals, with a sufficient acknowledgement, to use limited amounts from material published in the UK. These exceptions include:
- Non-commercial research or private study
- Quotation, criticism or review
- Making accessible copies for the personal use of disabled users, as long as such copies are not already commercially available
- Parody or pastiche
- Illustration for instruction. This includes using fair amounts of material in teaching (including via a VLE), examinations, coursework and theses.
Fair dealing is not defined in law: it is a matter of judgement, and should be used after careful consideration. For a case of fair dealing to be made, the following is essential:
- Using the material should not threaten the commercial interests of the copyright owner
- The amount of the material used should be justified by the purpose.
The source should always be fully acknowledged.
Ensuring compliance with copyright
Members of the University and visitor members must endeavour at all times to comply with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and subsidiary legislation, and to adhere to the terms and conditions of copyright licences held. Anyone who infringes copyright by copying a protected work without the authorisation of the copyright owner is committing a serious offence and will be subject to disciplinary action.
The University’s copyright policy (PDF) addresses issues relating to the use of third party material. Library users wishing to copy or make use of third party copyrighted materials are expected to check whether this may be done lawfully under one of the following provisions:
- The material is out of copyright
- Fair dealing applies
- The intended use of the material is permitted by licence.
In any other case permission to copy must be obtained in writing from the copyright owner and kept for future reference.
Get in contact
For further information or advice please contact the Digital Collections Officer, Christine Daoutis:
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: +44 (0)1483 686823
Guidance for staff and students
If you are a student or member of staff here at Surrey and would like to know about copyright in your role then please see the relevant guidance: