Personal study

Fair dealing for the purposes of research & private study

UK copyright law provides an exception for non commercial research and private study, under which you may make a single copy of a 'fair' proportion of a work for your own personal research or study e.g. photocopy an extract from a book to read for your course.

How much can you copy?

What is 'fair dealing' is not defined in law, but as a rule of thumb, safe limits are likely to be:

  • one chapter from a book
  • one article from a single issue of a journal
  • one paper from one set of conference proceedings
  • one short story or one poem not exceeding 10 pages from an anthology
  • one case  from a report of judicial proceedings

This exception covers any type of copying, e.g. photocopying, scanning, printing, downloading.


Please note the following points:

  • You must not copy material for anyone else. This includes forwarding copies by email, or making them available to others by placing them on the internet, or an intranet site.
  • A digital copy should not be altered, edited, incorporated or changed in any way. 
  • Digital copies should be stored on a non-networked drive.
  • Single photographs, illustrations, charts, maps etc. should not be copied (unless you are the copyright owner, or have prior permission), nor should such material be isolated from a work and scanned in isolation.

Using library online resources

You have access to many full text electronic journals, books and bibliographic databases through the library. You may have found them by doing an internet search but access is allowed due to a University subscription. These resources are subject to licensing agreements and you need to abide by these.

Please read our guidelines for accessing, copying and sharing library online resources.

Course materials

Photocopies and scanned course materials provided by your lecturer have normally been created under one of the University’s institutional copyright licences.

These licences limit access to students registered on a particular course. Materials should not be recopied, forwarded or made available to others.

Copying materials from the internet

Many people assume that content that is freely available to view on the internet may be freely copied. This is not true. Most works on the internet are protected by copyright.

When using material from the internet:

  • Check to see if there is a copyright statement or policy on a  website. It may provide guidance on circumstances where it is permitted for material to be copied or reused, for example for personal use. Such statements are often found at the foot of a site’s home page.
  • Check to see whether a work has a Creative Commons or other open licence which may allow copying and reuse without permission. But beware: the person who put the material up may themselves not be the copyright owner, or be infringing copyright. See our open licences page for websites where you can search for open licensed content.
  • In the absence of any clear copyright statement, consider whether you could copy under fair dealing exceptions given above.

Remember that many pirated works (books, musics, images etc.) are made available on the internet in a way that breaks the law. You should not copy, download or link to any such infringing material.

If you are in any doubt, don’t copy!


University of Nottingham Libraries

King's Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

Please see our Help and support page for
telephone and email
contact points