Information Services

Copyright policy and guidelines


Copyright is now an unavoidable and important aspect of university life and these pages are designed to help you navigate your way through copyright law. The guidelines and links aim to provide the fundamentals that you need to know about copyright and related rights at the University of Kent so that you can:

  • identify whether and how copyright issues affect your work
  • make informed decisions on the best way to address copyright implications with reference to the University of Kent’s copyright policy (pdf)
  • find out who to contact for further advice.

You can also download these guidelines as a pdf.

Copyright is an area of the law which is often misunderstood, and although straightforward in principle, in practice it can become complex which can lead to individuals and organisations finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. In order to minimise the risk of infringement which can lead to civil or criminal charges University staff, students and partners are advised to refer to these guidelines and if in doubt email for further advice or clarification.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a type of intellectual property right which covers all original, creative outputs of the human mind once fixed in a tangible form (eg written down or recorded). It therefore covers books, journals, paintings, photographs, software, music, film, sound recordings, broadcasts and many other things whether published or not. Copyright also arises automatically as soon as these works are fixed (even if they only ever exist in a digital format) so it can extend to works that many do not realise are copyright protected such as private letters, sketch drawings, emails and contributions to social media services.

Copyright lasts for a set period of time, during which it is illegal to do certain restricted acts without the permission of the copyright holder. In the UK these acts are defined in the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act as the exclusive right to:

  • copy the work
  • issue copies of the work to the public
  • rent or lend the work to the public
  • perform, show or play the work in public
  • communicate the work to the public (which covers making available on the Internet)
  • make an adaptation of the work or do any of the above in relation to an adaptation

It is therefore important when working with copyright material to either ensure that the relevant permissions to do any of the above have been obtained, or to determine that copyright exceptions apply.

Copyright exceptions: education, research and non-commercial activity

Under UK law there are certain defences that can be used when copyright material is used without the copyright holders permission. These defences are known as exceptions to copyright and as of 1 October 2014 these have been expanded to cover a wider range of education and research activities. These defences are generally known as fair dealing exceptions as they enable fair but limited use of copyright works. However they cannot be applied to all possible uses within an HE environment so should only be relied upon following careful consideration.

What are related rights?

Related rights are rights that arise alongside copyright and work in a similar way such, the most relevant of which are:

  • performers rights - the rights in a recording of a performance of any kind, including a lecture or presentation.
  • moral rights the right to be credited as the author of a copyright work and for the work not be used in a derogatory way.
  • database rights rights that arise in the selection and presentation of data in a database whether electronic or not.

Why is copyright important to the University?

The University has a responsibility to act lawfully and to provide staff, students, visitors and partners with relevant information regarding the law. Infringing activity taking place at the University could lead to legal action and there are financial and reputational risks associated with this.

More information on the University's regulations and guidance on peer to peer infringement.

Fundamentally it is important that the University, as an educational establishment, provides clear messages on the law and how it affects those working and studying within it.


Support and advice

For advice on copyright issues at the University contact:

Chris Morrison
Copyright and Licensing Compliance Officer

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Last Updated: 22/03/2019