Copyright and licences
Knowing about authors’ rights – both yours and others' – and sharing your work with an open licence helps you make your research more open.
What is copyright?
Copyright is a type of intellectual property. Intellectual property gives a person ownership over created works. 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.
Works protected by copyright include texts (e.g. journal articles, books, screenplays, blog posts, newspaper articles), music, sound recordings, images, films, databases, computer programs, websites, designs, maps – basically any type of original work involving some degree of judgement or skill in its creation.
Why is copyright important?
Copyright law determines both whether and how much you can photocopy, scan, print or download and how much you can reuse in your own research and teaching. It is therefore important to be aware of what you can and cannot do when it comes to using copyrighted materials, to ensure that you remain within the law. Anyone who infringes copyright by copying a protected work without the permission of the copyright owner can be sued for damages.
Copyright law also protects your rights over your own work. By default, your employer (the University) owns the copyright for any work you produce in the course of your contract (e.g., teaching materials, scholarly publications, software and databases).
However, in many cases you retain rights in addition to your moral rights enabling you to publish, re-use and disseminate your own work. For more details, see the University’s Copyright Policy (PDF) and Intellectual Property Code.
Creating copyrighted materials
Open Research is about making your scholarly works – including research publications and data, theses and teaching materials – as open as possible, for others to discover, access and re-use. At the same time, you must consider commercial interests, ethical issues and other factors that affect whether, when and how you can share your outputs. Considering these factors from the start and throughout the research process is essential.
To be able to decide what can be shared you need to be aware of the following:
- Who owns the copyright to your work
- What the University and funders expect you to do in terms of sharing or not sharing your outputs
- How open licences help you define how others can re-use your work.
Please visit the University’s Copyright Policy (PDF) to find out about ownership of works created by Surrey staff and students, including copyright to research publications, teaching materials and theses.
The University’s Intellectual Property Code sets out requirements related to commercially valuable research. In line with this code, you should declare commercially valuable research to the Technology Transfer Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) as early as possible.
To make sure that research is as open as possible, as closed as necessary, copyright and commercially valuable IP should be considered alongside funder requirements and University expectations on sharing research outputs: see policies on Open Access to Research Outputs (PDF) and Research Data Management (PDF).
Open licences are applied to copyrighted works, including research outputs, to ensure the maximum possible re-use by others while allowing the copyright owner to specify conditions for re-use.
Creative Commons licences
A Creative Commons (CC) licence ensures that:
- Authors will always receive proper attribution for their work
- Others can re-use the work in specified ways, e.g. share it, adapt it, or use it for commercial purposes.
Creative Commons licences commonly used for publications vary according to their terms of re-use.
The CC BY Attribution licence, required by UKRI and by the Wellcome Trust, allows others to share, adapt and re-use the work, even commercially, always with attribution to the creator. Other licences (CC BY-NC, CC BY-ND) may be acceptable to funders in exceptional cases.
Works, including research data, that can be released in the public domain do not require attribution and can be shared under the Creative Commons Zero Public Domain Dedication.
View the full range of licences and watch the 'Creative Commons licences explained' video.
Open source licences
An open source licence applies to software, allowing it to be freely used, modified, and shared. As open source licences allow modifications, they support collaboration within developer and researcher communities. Widely used licences include the so-called GNU licences (GPL, LGPL), the MIT licence, BSD licences and others. Which licence you choose depends on how you intend others to re-use and re-share (e.g., allowing or restricting commercial re-uses, requirements to share under the same terms). Use this licence chooser tool to apply a licence suitable for your research project.
If you publish in a subscription journal
- Where possible, you should try to keep copyright on behalf of the University rather than sign it over to the publisher
- If it is not possible to keep copyright, as a minimum you should try to keep the right to share your author’s accepted manuscript (AAM) in the University’s Open Access repository.
A rights retention strategy refers to keeping certain rights to share your work or keeping copyright to your work. More information on funders’ expectations, and the University’s approach, to rights retention will be published soon.
If you publish Open Access
Journal articles, conference proceedings and monographs published under an Open Access (OA) model are typically under a Creative Commons Licence. Funders including UKRI and the Wellcome Trust require a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC-BY)).
When you publish open access, you will be typically presented with a choice of licences on the publisher’s website or in your publishing agreement. These licences determine how others can share and re-use your work; they all require attribution to you. Please make sure that you choose the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC-BY). The University’s Open Access funds do not normally support publishing under other licences such as CC BY-NC or CC BY-ND. For more information, see our section on Creative Commons Licences.
Under a standard copyright agreement with a subscription journal, the journal publisher has the rights, and their permission is usually needed to share the work. With open access, the author or institution has the rights and can share the work publicly, usually under a CC-BY licence.
If you wish to license your data, you must first establish who owns the intellectual property rights (IPR):
- If you are working with commercial collaborators or your funder is a private organisation, your contract will specify who owns the IPR to your data
- In most other instances, the owner is likely to be the University.
Creative Commons offers a range of standard licencing options from the most open to the more restrictive. It is unlikely that you would need the more restrictive options of a CC licence. Unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise (e.g. contractual obligations) we recommend a simple CC-BY licence in order maximise dissemination and reuse of your data.
To attach a licence to your data, simply include a statement in the metadata to the effect that the data is available under the chosen licence with a link to the full text of the licence. For example:
- 'The dataset [insert name of dataset] is made available under CC BY License v4.0. The full text of this can be found at Creative Commons website's licenses section.'
If your data has commercial value, contact the Technology Transfer Office (email@example.com) to discuss your options. For more guidance on licencing data, see the DCC’s How to License Research Data.
Most funding bodies have policies on research data management and sharing. Make sure you are familiar with your funder’s requirements around sharing your data. Data sharing requirements are designed to serve two purposes: facilitating reuse and enabling verification.
Although funders do expect you to share your data, they also recognise that there are legitimate reasons why you may not be able to do so. These include:
Commercial potential or interests and contractual terms
Sharing may still be possible under licence (e.g. CC-BY Non-Commercial) or subject to a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Data belongs to collaborators or a third party
Limited sharing may still be possible if subject to a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Personal or private information
Sharing may still be possible if explicit consent to do so is obtained; see the UK Data Service on consent and other ethical/legal issues.
No sharing of sensitive information which could compromise unprotected intellectual property or, in the judgement of the security services, result in unacceptable risk to the citizens of the UK or its allies.
If you need to restrict access to your data, the reasons for doing so must be outlined in your data management plan and the Data Statement which accompanies any publications based on the data.
Using copyrighted materials
This includes lectures, recorded lectures and teaching materials.
You can normally include copyrighted materials in your lecture slides under an exception to copyright law, specifically the ‘illustration for instruction’ or ‘quotation, criticism and review’ exceptions. In other words, if your purpose is to illustrate a point in your teaching or discuss the resource in class, and you meet all the other criteria of fair dealing, then you can use these materials (see copying without permission: copyright exceptions and fair dealing).
You can play films or music in your lectures, as long as the purpose is educational. You can also make and store digital recordings of TV programmes or radio broadcasts and show them in a lecture under the University’s Educational Recording Agency (ERA) licence. Broadcasts covered by the licence are BBC, ITV, Channel 4, E4, Channel 5 and the Open University. Use the Box of Broadcasts National service to search and access the programmes.
Copyright becomes more relevant when your lecture is recorded and made available on Surreylearn. Even if the recorded lecture is only made available to authorised users (i.e. students registered on the particular course), there are still copyright considerations. A recorded lecture is itself a copyrighted work: for further details see the University's Captured Content policy (PDF).
- Include small amounts of text and images, under fair dealing (see Copying without permission: copyright exceptions and fair dealing further below) or from resources that are covered by one of the University’s licences (see Licences)
- Use resources you have created yourself, have the rights to, or the University has the rights to
- Use materials available with an open licence; materials that are out of copyright; materials for which you already have written permission or for which there is a copyright notice allowing re-use for educational purposes. See Copying without permission.
- Include any film or music that you played in your lecture, unless you have specific permission or there is a licence allowing you to do so specifically for recorded lectures made available to students. For example, you can share ERA recordings with students over SurreyLearn as long as the students are in the UK, but you cannot include them in your Panopto lecture. In these cases, stop the Panopto recording before playing the resource and link to the resource from SurreyLearn
If in doubt, contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for advice.
Whether you are preparing printed materials for a course pack or adding electronic materials to your reading list for a module, you need to ask yourself and be aware of the following:
- Are the materials covered under one of the educational licences the University has in place? (see Licences). These determine which materials are covered and how much you can copy. For books and journal articles (including images that are part of these resources) check with the Copyright Licensing Agency
- Always request additional materials or digitisation of materials via your online reading list
- Fully acknowledge any materials you include or link to.
Under the copyright exception of illustration for instruction (see copying without permission: copyright exceptions and fair dealing), you can copy, display on a screen or distribute photocopies of protected materials to set and explain exam questions and assessed assignments. Such copies should not be used outside the exam.
You should apply fair dealing i.e., only use as much of the material as can be justified by the purpose, and fully acknowledge the source. Please note that since June 2014 the previous examination exception allowing unrestricted use of materials no longer applies, so applying fair dealing is important.
Fair dealing also applies to students answering exam questions or submitting work for examination, including theses. However, it is important to note that this exception applies up to the examination. Any students you supervise must be aware that to include protected materials in a thesis they need either to apply fair dealing for quotation, criticism and review or, for more extended uses, clear permission to use the material.
Sharing on SurreyLearn
The content below indicates whether you can share various types of materials on SurreyLearn.
A published resource (journal article, book chapter or case report)
There may be legal restrictions to sharing on SurreyLearn. The Library may or may not have access to this resource and permissions vary. For this reason always place a request via the Reading list system:
- Place a request via the reading list system. The Library will check permissions and will add the resource to the online reading list
- Where permission is denied the Library will inform you. In such a case you may need to choose an alternative resource
- Do not upload a copy yourself. Always place a request via the reading list.
A copy of a journal article or book chapter you wrote yourself
Same as with any other article or book chapter:
- Being the author does not necessarily mean you have permission to put the work on SurreyLearn. Unless your copyright agreement explicitly allows you to share the work, follow the steps above as you would do with any other publication.
A journal article or book chapter freely available online
It depends whether you can share on SurreyLearn:
- You can link to copies available from repositories
- You can also link to copies published as Open Access on the publisher's website
- Not all freely available copies (e.g. ones shared on ResearchGate) are legal. Contact us (email@example.com) if unsure.
A newspaper article
You can share on SurreyLearn, however, there are restrictions:
- The University has a licence allowing you to share copies of newspaper articles (see licences). Make sure you add the details in your reading list.
An unpublished report or a working paper
You would need permission from the copyright owner before putting it on SurreyLearn. Please contact the Library (firstname.lastname@example.org) for advice.
A Harvard Business Publishing case study
You will need to seek advice on whether you can share on SurreyLearn:
- Harvard Business Publishing cases are purchased and covered by a separate copyright agreement. Please contact your Faculty Engagement manager, Catherine Batson at email@example.com.
You can't share this on SurreyLearn without first getting permission from the copyright owner. The Library can provide guidance on how to seek and record permissions.
Your own slides containing text and images created by you
You can share this on SurreyLearn without needing anyone else's permission.
Slides created by a colleague here at the University
You can share on SurreyLearn, however it is good practice to make your colleague aware.
You can't share on SurreyLearn, however there are exceptions see:
Scanned from a book or journal article
An image (e.g. a photo, diagram, drawing) that is scanned from a book or journal article, is most likely able to be shared on SurreyLearn without needing permission, as the University's licence agreements cover copying and scanning images for educational use.
As with texts do not scan the image yourself. Request digitisation via the reading list system and the Library will check permissions and do the scanning for you.
A downloaded image is a freely available image, but is not necessarily free to re-use. Images you can use are:
- Images under fair dealing
- Images (including graphs and diagrams) created by you
- Sources to find images that can be reused without permissions (see copyright for images, film and music).
Directly searching image websites like Flickr, Wikimedia, Morguefile or Snappy Goat can be helpful, but make sure that you check the permissions attached to each image individually as these may vary. Be aware that some images may have been uploaded without permission; if there isn’t specific licensing information and you are in any doubt, do not use, and contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for advice.
A TV or radio broadcast
Can be shared on SurreyLearn without getting permission, but there are restrictions:
- The University has licences and agreements in place to allow this (see licences)
- Broadcasts covered under these agreements can be shared on SurreyLearn
- However, they can only be made available inside the UK.
A commercial DVD
A commercial DVD can't be shared on SurreyLearn without getting permission first. You can however, show this in a lecture.
A YouTube video
A YouTube video can be shared on SurreyLearn without needing permission, but only link to verified sites - indicated by a green tick.
Directly searching film and sound websites like YouTube can be helpful, but make sure that you check the permissions attached to each recording individually as these may vary. Be aware that some recordings may have been uploaded without permission; if there isn’t specific licensing information and you are in any doubt, do not use, and contact Christine Daoutis (email@example.com) for advice.
The University holds licences and contracts that allow staff and students to copy protected works without having to seek individual copyright holders’ permission. You must observe the relevant terms and conditions.
Under a Copyright Licensing Agency Licence (CLA), you can:
- Make photocopies of extracts from any printed books and journals covered by the Licence
- Produce printouts of extracts from digital publications covered by the Licence
- Make a single copy for each student enrolled on the course plus one copy for each tutor
- Make digital copies of extracts and images by scanning from printed resources. The CLA requires that copyright notices are added to each scanned copy and recorded for reporting purposes. For this reason, do not digitise copes yourself: instead, place the request via the online reading list digitisation service. Your faculty engagement librarian can show you how to do this
- Link to digital copies from your online reading list or from your lecture slides.
Please use the CLA Check Permissions search tool to see what is covered and what further conditions apply.
NLA media access (formerly the Newspaper Licensing Agency) allows you, for educational purposes, to make multiple photocopies of articles from any of the major UK national newspapers, plus some regional and foreign ones, subject to the following conditions:
- A maximum of 250 copies may be made of any one article from an issue of a newspaper
- All copies must be marked “NLA licensed copy. No further copies may be made except under licence.”
For further details see the NLA media access website.
Under an Educational Recording Agency (ERA) licence, you can record, for educational purposes, radio and TV broadcasts, as well as cable output of ERA members: BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and E4, Channel 5, the Open University and others. The ERA Licence does not cover the copying of commercially produced pre-recorded DVDs, videos, and CDs: these may be played in a lecture but not made available via SurreyLearn. For further information see the Educational Recording Agency website.
You can make and store digital recordings on the Box of Broadcasts National service and play them in a lecture – but not include them in a recorded lecture. You can also distribute them to students in the UK via SurreyLearn.
The Limited Online Music Licence from the Performing Rights Society (PRS) allows you to add online music tracks to SurreyLearn for on-demand streaming. For further information see the PRS website.
More copyright information
Materials found on the web – texts, images, video, blog content etc – are usually protected by copyright, even if you can access them freely. This means that you will need permission to copy or reuse them, unless:
- There is an explicit copyright notice or licence (usually found at the end of a site’s homepage) allowing you to re-use the material
- You can justify using small amounts under fair dealing (see copying without permission: fair dealing).
There is a great deal of material on the web which has been posted illegally. You should check that the item to which you wish to link has been put there by the copyright holder or with the holder’s permission. If you link to works which infringe someone’s copyright, like pirated music files or video clips of films or TV programmes on YouTube, you might be liable for what is known as contributory copyright infringement. An alternative is to cite the original media without the use of any link.
Images, music and multimedia are subject to copyright. The fact that these materials are available for downloading, for example on Google images or on YouTube, does not mean they are free to re-use.
Normally you will need to get permission to re-use these materials, unless one or more of the following applies:
- Your intended use can be justified under an exception to copyright law (see copying without permission: copyright exceptions and fair dealing)
- The material is out of copyright (see copying without permission: out of copyright materials)
- The material is available under an open licence (see copying without permission: Creative Commons licences) or there is a copyright notice allowing re-use for your purposes
- The University of Surrey subscribes to this material and provides it to its staff and students under a licence (see licences) allowing re-use for your purposes, e.g., ERA licence for broadcasts
- You have created the material yourself, e.g., it is a photo that you took yourself, your own diagram or a video you made, and you own the copyright. Please note that you need to get the written consent of any people you have photographed or filmed and clear any third party copyright, for example if you have taken a photo of a copyrighted work of art
- Pre-recorded music can be played in a lecture, but if you want to copy it you must obtain the appropriate permission. Music copyright is both difficult and expensive to clear: the composer, lyricist, performers and makers of the sound recording all have rights in a work and all rights holders need to give permission for it to be used. However, there are ways to make legal use of pre-recorded music without the need to seek individual permissions. The University has a Limited Online Music Licence from PRS for Music which authorises the adding of online music tracks to SurreyLearn for on-demand streaming. For further information see the PRS for Music website.
Once you establish that you can re-use the material, always acknowledge it fully. See the Creative Commons guidance on best practices for attribution.
If none of the above apply you need to seek permission; or consider a different source.
The following lists searchable sources that include material free to re-use under certain conditions.
The University image bank
The University's asset bank has photos of university activities, buildings and people.
You need to register to access the database. Check the terms and conditions for re-use.
Creative Commons materials
You can find over 300 million openly licensed images aggregated across multiple image repositories through Creative Commons.
Creative Commons does not verify whether the licensing and attribution information is accurate. You should double check this before reusing the content.
Pexels and Unsplash
Pexels and Unsplash offer images available without re-use restrictions, meaning you can use them for any legal purpose.
Snappy Goat provides over 14 million openly licensed/public domain images, photos and clip art.
Wikimedia Commons has over 54 million images, sound files and video that anyone can contribute to.
Do check each for individual terms of re-use. May include materials uploaded without the consent of the rights owner.
Library, art and museum collections
There are various library, art and museum collections with many images available under open licenses, including:
- The New York Public Library Digitals Collections
- The British Library online collection
- The Library of Congress free-to-use sets
- The Metropolitan Museum New York etc.
Check individual terms of re-use.
Box of broadcasts
Box of broadcasts includes broadcasts from the BBC, Channel 4, ITV etc.
This is available to staff and students under the University's ERA licence. You can use this service to watch, record and share recordings with other members of the University for educational non-commercial purposes only. Check full conditions.
BUFVC Moving Image Gateway
BUFVC Moving Image Gateway allows you to search across 2,000 websites for film and sound materials.
EU Screen has videos, images, texts and audio from European archives.
It is free access but check the copyright conditions for each item. Many, but not all, are free to re-use.
Free Music Archive and Jamendo
Free Music Archive and Jamendo includes music available under open licenses.
Copying without permission
In some cases, copyright law allows you to use materials for specific purposes without obtaining permission. Exceptions most likely to be relevant to you include:
Non-commercial research and private study. This applies, for example, if you want to photocopy or download content from a source e.g. a book, as part of your research. There are no specific rules about how much you can copy, but as a rule of thumb you can make a single copy or a short extract from a work e.g. photocopy an extract from a book to read for an assignment. You may not make multiple copies, or share the extract with others.
Illustration for instruction. For example, you can use a ‘fair’ amount of the material in a lecture or when preparing exam questions, as long as the use is justified by the purpose i.e. including this material helps you discuss a topic in class or assess the students.
Criticism, review and quotation. Again, you can copy a ‘fair’ amount of the material for your lecture, course materials or in your own research if this is justified by the context; for example, a digital reproduction of a work of art if your purpose is to discuss the painting or, say, the historical context of the painting.
Applying these exceptions is subject to what is known in UK law as fair dealing. Whether your use of a material falls under fair dealing or not mainly depends on the reason you are using the material and the amount you copy. The exceptions above only apply if:
- The amount that you use is only as much as you need for your purpose
- The purpose is non-commercial and using the material is not likely to damage the interests of the author i.e. it is not likely to affect sales of the work or is not used in a defamatory way
- You fully acknowledge the author and the source.
If you want to use more extensive amounts of the work, fair dealing does not apply. In these cases you need permission from the copyright holder.
Other exceptions to copyright include:
- Text and data mining for non-commercial research. You can copy text and data to which you already have lawful access to (e.g., your institution already subscribes to the content) to carry out a computational analysis for research purposes
- Making accessible copies of a resource, if the original work is inaccessible to you or one of your students due to a physical or mental impairment. This applies if there is no accessible copy already commercially available.
For more information on exceptions to copyright law and fair dealing please see guidance from the UK Intellectual Property office.
In general terms the duration of copyright is as follows:
- Written literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, films and video recordings: 70 years after the death of the creator(s). For films, this is 70 years after the death of the director, screenplay author and composer
- Sound and music recordings: 70 years from when it was first released
- Broadcasts, including cable programmes: 50 years from when the broadcast was made
- Layouts (typographical arrangements) of published editions of written works: 25 years from the end of the year of first publication.
Please note that copyright duration for unpublished works is subject to different rules. If in doubt, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The aim of Creative Commons licences is to build content that 'can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law', while ensuring that the creators get credit for their work.
Licences range from the most liberal CC-BY licence, allowing users to share, adapt and re-use the work even commercially, to the most restrictive CC-BY-NC-ND licence, allowing users to share the work but not modify or use it commercially.
Finding and using Creative Commons materials
Materials under Creative Commons licences include texts, pictures, music and film. You can search for these materials through the CC website but make sure that you double-check the terms of re-use and that you attribute the creator of the work (PDF) correctly.
CC BY licence
You may distribute, remix, adapt and build upon the material in any format, giving attribution to the creator under the CC BY licence.
CC BY-SA licence
You may distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format under the CC BY-SA licence. Giving attribution to the creator. This includes commercial use. Any material produced in this way must be licenced under the same terms.
CC BY-NC licence
You may distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for non-commercial purpose only under the CC BY-NC licence, giving attribution to the creator.
CC BY-NC-SA licence
You may distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for non-commercial purpose only under the CC BY-NC-SA licence, giving attribution to the creator. Any material produced in this way must be licenced under the same terms.
CC BY-ND licence
You may copy and distribute the material in any medium or format, but you cannot adapt or use commercially under the CC BY-ND licence. Attribution must be given to the creator.
CC BY-NC-ND licence
You may copy and distribute the material in any medium or format, but you cannot adapt or use commercially, and for non-commercial purposes only under the CC BY-NC-ND licence. Attribution must be given to the creator.
With the permission of the copyright holder, you can copy whatever is agreed and make as many copies as agreed. Look on the publisher’s website for information on rights, permissions and clearance. Some websites offer online clearance.
When seeking permission bear in mind the following:
- Allow plenty of time. It can be difficult to track down the right person and publishers can take several weeks to reply
- Copyright in films and music is often complex as it may belong to several creators: the screenwriter, the producer, the director, the composer of the soundtrack all have related rights in a film. Similarly, the composer, lyricist, performers and makers of the sound recording all have rights in a work and all rights holders need to give permission for it to be used
- Be as specific as possible about how you intend to re-use the material. Will it be embedded in a lecture? Will it be posted on the web? How much do you intend to use and why?
- In your request always state that you will fully acknowledge the source
- Get permission in writing and keep it for future reference
- Be aware that the copyright owner may impose conditions and costs
Do not assume that no reply equals consent.