These pages are intended as guidance to members of Birmingham City University on copyright and the copying of material for research, teaching and learning. They are not intended to provide definitive legal opinion. By following the links at the bottom of this page you will find more in depth information about copyright.

What is copyright?   What can you copy?   Fair Dealing   Licences   Digitisation & Scanning   Contacts   Useful Links

What is copyright?

The law of copyright exists to protect the intellectual standing and economic rights of creators and publishers of all literary, dramatic, artistic, musical, audiovisual and electronic works. The law governing copyright in the UK is the 1988 Copyright, Design and Patents Act (and amendments).

Copyright protection is automatic and there is no legal requirement for copyright to be registered. To qualify for copyright, a literary, dramatic or musical work must be original and has to be recorded in some way (i.e. written down, painted, composed etc)

What can you copy?

Copying is permitted if:

you are the author yourself, except where the work was produced as part of your paid employment, when your employer may hold some of the rights, or if you have signed over the rights to a publisher.


the copyright has expired. The copyright expiry date depends on the type of material, i.e.


for Literary, Dramatic, Musical or Artistic works, copyright lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the author or creator dies,


for Film and Video, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the last to die of the principal director, the author of the screenplay, the author of the dialogue or the composer of the music,

for Sound Recordings, copyright lasts for 50 years from the end of the year in which it was made or in which they were released if that is later,

for Databases, copyright lasts for 15 years after the end of the year in which the database was made,

for Typographical Arrangement, copyright lasts for 25 years from the end of the year in which the work is published.

These are the basic time periods and there may be some variations.


you have permission to copy from the rights holder(s) or their agent


it falls within the accepted limits of "Fair Dealing". This essentially allows limited copying for the purposes of research or private study without permission provided it is fair and the commercial interests of the rights holder are not damaged


the copying is allowed under one of the various licences the University holds, as shown below.


The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) License


The CLA licence permits staff and students to make multiple copies of most literary material published by its members provided that the copying does not exceed the following limits:

o        Books: up to one complete chapter or 5% of a book

o        Journal Articles: one whole article from a single issue of a serial publication or in a set of conference proceedings

o        Law Reports: the entire report of a single case in a published report of judiciary proceedings

o        Poems and Short Stories: one poem or short story of up to ten pages from an anthology.


The Educational Recording Agency (ERA) licence


The ERA licence permits recordings of all radio, television and cable programmes. A recording can be carried out on campus or at home, providing its re-showing is for educational purposes only.


The Design and Arts Society (DACS) licence


The DACS licence enables educational institutions to reproduce images of 'works of artistic craftsmanship' as slides, under 'blanket' permission. Revenue from the scheme is distributed by DACS to the rights holders. The slides produced are solely for the educational use of staff and students of the University.


The Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) Licence

The NLA licence allows for multiple copying of articles in some newspapers. The licence restricts the number of copies of an individual article to a maximum of 250.

Digitisation & Scanning  

Please follow this link to find information about Digitisation & Scanning



For more information and assistance please contact the following:

Nikki Griffin or Beth Delwiche (x. 6247) for electronic / digital / scanning based copyright help and support

Helen Ryba (ext. 7030)  for support and help at Mary Seacole Library

For other UCEEL enquiries please phone x. 5286 or email:

 Useful Links

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This page last updated by John McMullan