Information Services

Copyright policy and guidelines



Using copyright works at Kent

Don't assume that you can copy or use material for teaching or research without getting copyright permission, just because your use is educational or non-commercial.

At Kent we have licences and arrangements that let us access copyright material for research and teaching within agreed limits; sometimes 'fair dealing' exceptions apply (see below) - but not always.

You can legally use copyright material if:

  • copyright has expired
  • you or the University own the rights (see institutionally owned copyright below)
  • you have permission from the rights holder
  • you're relying on a legal defence (see exceptions and fair dealing below).

Expiry of copyright

Copyright expires after a set period of time or duration, after which there are no restrictions on the use of the copyright work. When copyright expires the work is said to pass into the public domain. There are many different durations of copyright depending on the type of work but the most relevant are:

  • published literary, artistic, musical or dramatic works 70 years following the death of the author
  • typographical copyright 25 years from publication
  • unpublished literary, artistic, musical or dramatic works either 70 years following the death of the author or until 31 December 2039 (whichever is later)
  • crown copyright (UK Government) usually 50 years after creation or publication
  • sound recordings - 70 years from date of creation or release
  • film - 70 years from death of the last surviving key contributors (writer, director or producer)

Institutionally owned copyright

Employers own the rights in material created by their employees under UK law unless an employment contract states otherwise. At the University of Kent, copyright in scholarly works is retained by academic staff which is consistent with the policies of many other universities. More detail on this can be found in the University of Kent Intellectual Property Policy (pdf on SharePoint).

Licences and permissions

Licences from rights holders allow others to use copyright works under conditions imposed by the licence. Some key types of licences under which the University can use copyright material are:

Licensing bodies that give blanket licences for Higher Education:

Body Class of work Allow
CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) Books, magazines Limited copying and use in a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) such as Moodle
ERA (Educational Recording Agency) UK TV broadcasts Recording and storage allows use of BoB - On Demand TV and Radio for Education service
NLA Media Access (Newspaper Licensing Agency) Newspapers, magazines Press clippings
DACS (Design and Artists Copyright Society) Artistic images (including photos) Reproduction of artistic works
PRS for Music/PPL Musical works / musical sound recordings Public performance, audio products, online services
Filmbank Feature films Showing film/TV in non-educational context

Information Services at Kent operate a CLA Scanning Service, providing digital scans of course material in Moodle.

If you want to reproduce or reuse any part of a website, software package or electronic resource, check the terms of use to find out whether you are allowed. The terms of use are part of a legal contract between you (potentially representing the University) and the service provider. Ignoring these terms could put you in breach of contract as well as infringing copyright, although copyright fair dealing exceptions could apply.

Exceptions and fair dealing

Copyright 'exceptions' are a legal defence for using copyright works without the rights holder's permission. There are exceptions which could apply to higher education, but be cautious about relying on them. They will only apply in limited circumstances and are subject to a test of fairness.

Changes to UK copyright exceptions from 1 June 2014 (University of Kent slideshare presentation)

The concept of fair dealing is an important one for education and research in the UK, but is often confused with fair use which is actually a doctrine from US law. Both fair dealing and fair use effectively serve the same function to allow fair use of copyright works for societally beneficial purposes but the UK system is more specific and restrictive.

Fair dealing exceptions for education and research

These are the key exceptions, it's not an exhaustive list. It references relevant clauses in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Conditions will apply to each of them:

Description of exception CDPA clause
Making single, limited, personal copies of copyright works for non-commercial research & private study purposes S29
Copying copyright material for the purposes of text mining and data mining S29A
Reproducing copyright works for the purposes of quotation, parody, or criticism and review S30
Making accessible copies of copyright works for the personal use of disabled people S31A
Reproducing copyright material for the purposes of illustration for instruction. This now allows fair digital copying for a teaching event, for examinations, theses and potentially use in a VLE S32
Performing, playing or showing a copyright work for the purposes of instruction in an educational establishment S34
Recording of off-air broadcasts (subject to the University’s ERA licence) S35
Copying of extracts from copyright works and use of multiple copies (subject to the University’s CLA licence) S36
Copying by libraries and archives for the purposes of preservation S40-43

For the fair dealing defences to apply you will need to do the following:

  • provide acknowledgement of the rights holder with the copies, unless it is impractical to do so
  • ensure the use of the work does not compete with the normal exploitation of it by the rights holder
  • ensure that the use of the work is not excessive (eg copying the whole work when only an extract is required)
  • ensure that the use of the work is not for commercial purposes.

Users with disabilities are allowed to make accessible copies of copyright works, or to have accessible versions made for them, as long as this is for personal use and an accessible copy is not already commercially available. Prior to 1 June 2014 this exception only related to users with visual impairments but has now been widened to cover anyone whose disabilities prevent equal access to copyright material. See Accessible formats for disabled people (from the Intellectual Property Office) (pdf).

Creative commons and open licensing

Open licensing allows you to reuse copyright material without contacting the rights holder for permission. They are binding legal contracts.

The most well-known open licences are Creative Commons (CC) licences. They're described as 'some rights reserved', and are 'modular' to allow you to apply varying levels of restriction, from CC0 (in which there are no conditions) to the most restrictive CC BY ND NC (users must attribute the source, can't make derivative works and can't make the work available on commercial terms).

CC licences are used in a range of contexts from creative/artistic works to Open Access publications and major scientific datasets. Some examples include:

The licences can be used free of charge and can also be digitally coded into content and webpages so that search engines can filter out only Creative Commons licensed material. Use the Creative Commons image search web page on the E-learning website to search for material which can be used without needing to obtain further permission.

The UK Government has also released a Creative Commons compatible licence called the Open Government Licence (OGL), which allows reuse of Crown copyright material and public sector information. The licence has some additional restrictions regarding personal data and use of public sector organisation logos/insignia, but is largely equivalent to the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence.


Contact me for more advice:

Chris Morrison
Copyright and Licensing Compliance Officer


Information Services, University of Kent

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Last Updated: 22/03/2019