Copyright Basics

What is copyright?

Copyright is legal protection for an author/creator which restricts the copying of an original work they have created.

Copyright in the UK is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988).

  • Copyright ownership can be transferred, bought and sold
  • Ideas are not subject to copyright, they are covered by patent law
  • Works can be written material, dramatic works, music, computer programs, web sites, databases, sound recordings, films, broadcasts and published editions of a work
  • Copyright of written, dramatic and musical works lasts for 70 years after the death of an author/creator

UK Copyright law limits the amount of material that you can legally copy.

Infringement of copyright by University of Leicester staff and students is taken seriously and further action will be taken.

What can I legally copy for personal use?

Tick You can copy a 'fair' amount for your own private study, research or critical review. A copy can be retained in print or electronically, but cannot be made accessible to others. 

Although fair is not defined, 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

If you are making multiple copies for students please see the Copyright and Teaching section. If you are copying to support commercial activity please contact us for further advice.

What can I legally download and/or print from the Internet for personal use?

Material on the web will usually be copyright protected. Check the terms and conditions or legal information on the site or the document/image in question. In the absence of any clear guidance consider applying the 'fair' copying terms above.

The University Library provides many electronic journals, books and databases.

These are supplied subject to licence agreements with individual publishers.

Tick Generally you can download and/or print individual items for personal use.
Do not download works in their entirety or systematically, for example an entire journal issue.
Cross Music, films and sound recording are NOT covered by ‘fair’ copying. So always look for permission.
Tick The Creative Commons symbol Creative Commons License Symbolhelps identify sites that allow legal sharing.
Cross Material on the web can be there illegally, for example pirated material. Do not download or link to this material, or use "peer-to-peer" file-sharing software.
Tick You must adhere to the University's IT Services Regulations.

Many licences do allow you to incorporate parts of a resource in a printed or electronic course pack. For more information see Copyright and Course packs or email for further advice before distributing copies in print or electronically for teaching.

If you are copying to support commercial activity please contact us for further advice.

What about photographs and other images?

There are some sources you can use which make images available for use under certain conditions without you needing to seek individual permission.


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