Copyright and research

Why is copyright relevant to you?

As a researcher you are likely to want to photocopy, scan, or download information from books, journals and web resources to support your research. You may also want to include this material in your thesis or when publishing your research. This material will almost certainly be covered by copyright and under UK law there are limits to what you can legally copy and reuse.

The work you produce and publish will also be protected by copyright:

  • A PhD student usually owns copyright in their research. An exception might arise where a pre-existing agreement allocates copyright to another party (for example, if you or a project you have worked on is sponsored, or funded by an external organisation).
  • Copyright for work created during the course of employment would usually be owned by the employer, but the University waives this right over research outputs. In the case of collaborative research, either with other academic institutions or with commercial partners, the copyright may be jointly held.

To learn more about copyright see the Basics section 

What can you do?

Our staying compliant checklist outlines the main ways you can use copyright materials within the law.

The most relevant to you are:

Exceptions allow you to copy a 'fair' proportion of a work without the prior permission of the copyright owner. These include fair dealing for:

    • Non-commercial research and private study
    • Criticism, review or quotation
    • Text and data mining
    • Illustration for instruction - This covers “giving or receiving instruction” and includes preparing a PhD theses as part of examination
  • Open licences which allow some copying and reuse without seeking permission e.g. Creative Commons materials, Open Government Licence, open educational resources.
  • Seeking permission from the copyright owner if none of the above cover your intended use.

It is also important to be aware of variations in copyright rules for different types of materials, e.g. music, images, as this can affect what you can do. See the Materials section for further advice.


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