Copyright exceptions

Although licences can provide you with explicit permission to use copyright works in certain ways, there are times when licences are unavailable or inappropriate.

For example, if you're quoting extracts from a large number of different works in a piece of academic work, it may be impossible to get permission from every copyright holder. The law therefore includes "exceptions" to copyright which allow use of copyright works without the copyright holder's permission in certain contexts. These are called "permitted acts" in the legislation, which is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA).

Summary of relevant UK copyright exceptions

Name of exception: Research or private study
CDPA section: Section 29
Purpose: Allows students and researchers to make limited copies of copyright works for non-commercial research or private study.
Activities covered: Making personal copies of extracts from books and journals Copying images to use as stimulus in research study.
Such use is only permitted when it is ‘fair dealing’ and copying the whole work would not generally be considered fair dealing.
The following upper limits are interpreted as reasonable for private study or non-commercial research by a number of organisations, including the British Library: One complete chapter of a book; One article from a journal; Up to 5% of a book or journal.

Name of exception: Quotation
CDPA section: Section 30
Purpose: Allows anyone to reproduce copyright works for the purpose of quotation where it is fair.
Activities covered: Includes presenting extracts from books, journals and musical works to students Potential use of whole works where the use is fair.

Name of exception: Accessible copying
CDPA section: Section 31A-F
Purpose: Allows individuals or institutions to provide equal access to copyright works for users with any type disability.
Activities covered: Digitising print material. Format shifting text to audio. Creating subtitles for videos.

Name of exception: Illustration for instruction
CDPA section: Section 32
Purpose: Allows teachers or students to use copyright work in teaching or study where the use is fair.
Activities covered: Including text, images, music or video in teaching slides and lecture recordings. Adding content to examination papers.

Name of exception: Educational performance
CDPA section: Section 34
Purpose: Allows any copyright work that can be performed, played or shown in an educational setting to be performed played or shown.
Activities covered: Screening a film in a lecture, playing musical sound recordings in class, performance of a play in class (ie not for an external audience).

Name of exception: Recording of broadcasts
CDPA section: Section 35
Purpose: Allows educational establishment to record TV and radio broadcasts and make them available to students.
Activities covered: Underpins the University’s use of BoB Online TV streaming service.

Name of exception: Making multiple copies
CDPA section: Section 36
Purpose: Allows educational institutions to copy up to 5% of a copyright work and supply multiple copies to students.
Activities covered: Copying of book extracts not covered by the CLA licence. Copying up to 5% of a film or sound recording and making it available to students on Moodle.

Fair dealing

Many copyright exceptions involve a test of "fair dealing". This means you need to think about whether your use of someone else’s work is fair, for example:

Deciding on whether something is fair will always need to be done on a case by case basis. There is no statutory definition of fair dealing - it will always be a matter of fact, degree and impression in each case. The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work?

This guidance is adapted from University of Kent Copyright Guidance by Chris Morrison and Angela Groth-Seary (2020), and is published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)