Copyright and Research

As a researcher you will want to photocopy or download material e.g. book chapters, journal articles, information or images from the web, to support your research. The material you wish to use will be subject to UK Copyright law, which limits the amount of material that you can legally copy. See Copyright Basics for more information.

The research you produce is also subject to copyright law.

What can I legally photocopy for research purposes?

Tick You can copy a 'fair' amount for your own private study, research or critical review. Although fair is not defined in UK law, please bear the following points in mind:

  • any copying must not impact on the commercial interests of the rightsholder
  • only one copy can be made
  • you must limit the amount copied to only that which you require
  • you must not pass your copy on to anyone else

Can I incorporate other people’s work into my research or thesis for publication?

TickYes, as long as you cite the material used so you cannot be accused of plagiarism it is acceptable to incorporate a limited amount of material into published research. For more information on plagiarism and citing see your departmental guidelines.

CrossIf you have used a lot of material from one source this may not be seen as fair and may require permission from the rightsholder. 

More comprehensive information can be found on the Leicester Research Archive web pages in the document Keeping your Thesis Legal.

I’m presenting at a conference. Do I need to worry about copyright?

TickYes. The advice above concerning the incorporation of other people’s work into your research applies. In particular make sure you have permission to use images if they are copyrighted.

Can I circulate a paper for a journal club?


No, but you can direct the club members to an electronic version if available.

Am I permitted to scrape content from websites for research purposes?

TickYes, under certain conditions.  UK copyright law entitles people to text and data mine (TDM) for the purposes of research, subject to the following conditions:

  • the research must be non-commercial
  • the source(s) must be acknowledged
  • the text or data obtained must not be passed onto anyone else
  • you have legal access to the text/data being mined e.g. you are not using a source site hosting clearly infringing/illegal material
  • you do not circumvent any digital rights management (DRMs) or technical protection measures (TPMs) placed onto the content/site*

*for example, there are many API’s available which allow you to scrape content from social  media sites, however, they only allow you to download a certain amount of data at once.  Although this limitation is likely to be the result of website restrictions to preserve their bandwidth, creating multiple requests to get around these restrictions could constitute circumventing DRMs/TPMs.

If your text and data mining does not comply with the conditions listed above then check the website(s) terms and conditions or legal information to see whether they permit scraping for the purposes you require, or contacting the web site owners for permission. 

Cross If your intended use doesn't fall under the TDM conditions, and you are unable to/do not confirm that the website permits your intended use, do not proceed as such activity could be viewed as illegal.  As a member of staff or a student of the University you are bound by the Regulations for IT Users and it is your responsibility to ensure your use of any software and your actions are compliant with the regulations and the law.  

A good overview of the Text and Data Mining exception can be found here -

Is the research I create covered by copyright?


Yes. Where the material has been created by an employee in the course of their employment, the employer is the first owner of copyright in the work unless there is an agreement to the contrary. See the University's Intellectual Property policy for more detailed information.

When you publish your research, by signing a publisher's licence agreement, usual practice assigns copyright to the publisher. However, there are alternatives:

  • You can ask the publisher to agree to use the Scholarly Publishing and Academic resources Coalition (SPARC) Author Addendum. This is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher's agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles.
  • You can publish in an open access (OA) journal, or in a hybrid journal, one that contains open access articles. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) can help you find a suitable OA or hybrid journal to publish in.
  • The Leicester Research Archive (LRA) is another place where you may wish to deposit your research output to make it freely available to all. Putting your research output into LRA does not stop you using it elsewhere, you retain control over your work and can publish it or use it in teaching.

Your work may have been published in a journal, or may be awaiting publication, and you may therefore have assigned some rights to a third party. This need not preclude its inclusion in Leicester Research Archive. Some publishers will allow authors to archive their work in repositories such as this one.

The Library is aware of such concerns, and will investigate thoroughly before archiving anything. If the publisher will not allow us to put the work into Leicester Research Archive, or if putting it in will jeopardise your publishing it, then we will not archive it. If you are worried that archiving a particular piece of work will stop you from publishing that work in the future, please ask us to investigate for you.

For more information see the Open Access section or read about author rightsPDF icon[although please ignore any reference to US law].

Further assistance

Please contact us if you need further assistance.

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