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A quick introduction to copyright

Copyright is something you have probably heard about but don’t give an awful lot of thought to on a day to day basis. However, whatever subject you are studying with us, here at Marjon it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will be making use of materials that you did not create. Therefore it is important you know something about the topic of copyright, as it relates to your academic studies.

Definition of copyright

Copyright is one of the main types of intellectual property. It allows the copyright owner to protect against others copying or reproducing their work.

Intellectual property gives a person ownership over the things they create, the same way as something physical can be owned.

Copyright arises automatically when a work that qualifies for protection is created. The work must be original, meaning it needs to originate with the author, who will have used some judgement or skill in its creation.

The main works currently protected by copyright in the UK include:

  • Original literary works (such as novels, poems, tables, lists, and computer programs)
  • Original dramatic works
  • Original musical works (i.e. the musical notes themselves)
  • Original artistic works
  • Sound recordings
  • Films
  • Broadcasts
  • Typographical arrangements (i.e. the layout or actual appearance) of published editions

In general, the author or creator of the work owns the copyright.

However, copyright for work created by an employee during the course of their employment is owned by the employer.

The main legislation dealing with copyright in the United Kingdom is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988

What is Copyright?: Copyright Licensing Agency. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2020, from


Length of copyright

Copyright duration depends on the work involved.

For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works it’s 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies (for multiple authors, it will be 70 years from the death of the last remaining author).

For typographical arrangements (i.e. layout or appearance of the printed article), the duration is 25 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was first published with that layout/appearance.

While the underlying work itself might be out of copyright, if a new edition is set and printed or additional text such as an introduction is added these new elements will attract copyright protection.

 What is Copyright?: Copyright Licensing Agency. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2020, from

Education and copyright

Generally you are allowed to use any copyright material as part of your academic work. This is a special allowance made under copyright law specifically to facilitate education.

To understand why this is necessary, just imagine trying to write an essay on a scientific study without being able to quote from that study, or art history without being able to use images of the artworks you are discussing. In order to use works under this allowance however you must fulfil certain criteria:

  • You must engage in some way with the work by commenting, criticising and/or reviewing it. This engagement can be direct or thematic.
  • You must ensure any and all works you have used in this way are properly cited, and that you have only used a ‘reasonable’ amount of the original work. 

What is considered ‘reasonable’ is governed by “Fair Dealing” which is covered in the next section.

Fair dealing

Certain exceptions to copyright law only apply if the use of the work is a ‘fair dealing’. For example, the exceptions relating to research and private study, criticism or review, or news reporting.

‘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 statutory definition of fair dealing – it will always be a matter of fact, degree and impression in each case. The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work?

Factors that have been identified by the courts as relevant in determining whether a particular dealing with a work is fair include:

  • does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it, causing the owner to lose revenue, then it is not likely to be fair
  • is the amount of the work taken reasonable and appropriate? Was it necessary to use the amount that was taken? Usually only part of a work may be used

The relative importance of any one factor will vary according to the case in hand and the type of dealing in question.

Exceptions to copyright. (2020). Retrieved 31 March 2020, from

Plagiarism vs Copyright

While these two concepts are similar and may even be mistaken for the same thing they are actually quite distinct from one another.


Plagiarism is taking credit for work you did not create or using someone else’s work without aknowledging it.
Educational bodies mostly deal with plagiarism, there are likely to be academic consequences for people found plagiarising.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement is using an authors work without getting their permission. The author of an original work automatically gets the copyright to that work and can decide whether to give their permission for use. Exceptions for “Fair Dealing” and educational purposes are discussed elsewhere.
Courts deal with copyright infringement, there can be quite serious legal consequences for people found infringing copyright.

Marjon copyright licences 

CLA Licence

Marjon holds a licence granted by the Copyright Licensing Agency, which allows staff and students to make and receive copies for educational purposes beyond what is allowed under the Copyright Act. 


So, how much can I copy under the CLA licence?

Generally you can copy the following under the terms of the Marjon CLA licence:

  • One whole chapter from a book.
  • One whole article from a journal issue.
  • One short story, poem or play (not exceeding 10 pages) from an anthology.
  • One whole scene from a play.
  • One whole paper from a set of conference proceedings.
  • One whole report of a single case from a volume of judicial proceedings.


  • 10% of any of the above, whichever is greater.


CLA Scanning

The CLA licence also allows Marjon Library to scan and upload journal articles and book chapters to Learning Space, as long as the following conditions are met:

  • Only ‘designated’ Library staff may scan and upload material.
  • The Library keeps records of every scan made.
  • Marjon owns a print copy of the original material or a Copyright Fee Paid copy. Personal copies cannot be scanned.
  • The scanned material must only be used by students and staff associated with the academic module it was originally requested for.
  • The original material must be published in territories that have an agreement with the CLA permitting scanning under the Licence and must not be listed on the CLA excluded materials list.
  • Restrictions as to the extent of the scan are the same as the limits for copying (see above).


Visual impairment 

The CLA licence gives the Library permission to make an enlarged copy of a complete document, in any format, for partially sighted individuals, as long as the following criteria are met:

  • Marjon must already own a copy of the item for use by other staff and students.
  • A copy must not be made if there is a commercially available large-print version of the work.
  • The number of copies made must match the number of partially-sighted readers of the work.
  • Copies must not be edited or bound with other material and must not be published or sold.


Other licences

Marjon holds several other licences that impact the ways in which students and staff can use various resources that may be different to what is usually allowed under the Copyright Act.



NLA Licence

A Newspaper Licencing Agency licence which allows multiple copies of newspaper articles to be made for use within modules or courses. Full acknowledgement should be made. For further information please see the NLA website.


ERA Licence

An ERA (Educational Recording Agency) licence allows the recording of”Free to air” broadcasts on the following channels:

  • BBC television and radio 
  • ITV
  • Channel 4 and E4
  • Five television
  • S4C

The licence also allows recordings made in this way to be uploaded to Learning Space. Please contact Media Services if you wish to request a recording.

Commercial DVDs are also covered by this licence as long as they are shown in a classroom environment.

For further infomation please see the ERA website.


Datebases, E-Books  and E-Journals

The Library subscribes to various databases and E-Journals as well as several E-Book platforms. The use of all these resources is subject to the terms and conditions of the specific licence agreements between Marjon Library and the service provider.

If you have any queries please contact us. 

More copyright resources

Marjon Copyright FAQ
We answer some of your queries about using copyright material at Marjon.


Copyright Licencing Agency (CLA)
Find details of the CLA licence. Plus general information about copyright in the UK.


GOV.UK - Copyright
The official UK Government source for copyright information including current legislation.





Marjon Study Skills - Plagiarism
Information and resources to help you avoid plagiarism in your academic work.


Public Domain Calculator
Find out if certain works are already in the public domain.


PLS Clear
A handy resource for getting permission to reuse published content.