This guide is designed to be used by students at LSE. It will introduce you to some of the copyright issues that you need to be aware of for your studies. It covers:

  • Copyright laws under ‘fair dealing’
  • Using images, audio and video
  • Copyright and the web
  • Creative Commons licensing
  • Sources of further information

Copyright quick facts

Although it is easy to copy and reuse copyright material for your studies, you may be breaking the law by doing so. Here’s a few quick copyright facts:

  • Copyright is automatic and does not need to be registered. As soon as an original idea, intellectual work or creative output is documented or expressed it is covered by copyright, including all material on the internet unless stated otherwise by the author
  • University activities are not exempt from copyright restrictions
  • Just like property, copyright can be transferred, bought and sold
  • Although you can use copyright material in your academic work for assessment purposes (providing it is correctly referenced), if you then intend to use it for any purpose other than assessment, you must get permission from the copyright owners.

Copying information: What can I use or copy?

Copyright laws under ‘fair dealing’

Copyright laws give you the right, called ‘fair dealing’, to copy limited amounts of a work without infringing the rights of the copyright owners. Under ‘fair dealing’ you may make one copy for yourself or for one other person for “non commercial research or private study”. This copying may be done by using a photocopier, scanner or any other means of copying, for example via a mobile phone.

Hover over each image for some guidance about how much can be copied:

  • Books – generally it is accepted you can copy around 5% of a book or one chapter (which ever is greater)
  • Journal articles – you are save to copy one article from an issue of a journal.
  • Printed music – the code of fair practice for music says that short exceprts of a movement can be copied for study or research. it cannot be copied for a performance though.

Other material can be copied under fair dealing including:

  • One poem or short story of up to 10 pages from an anthology
  • The report of one case from law reports
  • if extracting from a work for ‘criticism or review’ you may copy one extract of up to 400 words, or several of less than 300 words, totalling less than 800 words.
  • One copy of a web page

Using images, audio and video

Finding images, audio and video online has never been easier, but while you may be able to use these things in your assessed work without permission what if you want to publish that material? You may have created a blog, website or wiki for a module and be keen to make it publicly available. Find out how you might use the following types of resources below:

  • Images – images can be copied for assessment but if you then publish your work you will need to ask for permission from the copyright owner. Putting material online is considered publishing, so we recommend you use copyright free sources for images.
  • Recorded music – this is protected by copyright and must not be copied for any purpose without permission. Often copyright in a piece of music is owned by several people such as the performers, the songwriter and the composer. Copyright coveres all formats including CD, vinyl and MP3s.
  • TV, radio and video – you should be cuatious using videos from sites such as You Tube as it’s not always the copyright owner who posted the material. If you make any work available publicly you will need permission to include other people’s work. LSE has an ERA (Educational Recording Agency) Licence which allows broadcast material to be recorded for educational use.

Look for the Creative Commons logo on information online, this can indicate that you may reuse the information in an educational environment. We also have advice on Copyright and student-made videos.

  • If you use images, videos or audio that you did not create in your work, you must provide an accurate reference, even if the work is for assessment and not being published.

Copyright and the web

Unless otherwise stated, ALL material on the internet is protected by copyright.

  • If you wish to copy material from the web, i.e. to print or download it, you should check to see whether the page indicates what you can and cannot do.
  • If no guidance is provided, then you may make ONE copy (on disk or on paper) of the material you need for your own private study or research for a non-commercial purpose. The limits as to how much you may copy are set out in step 4 of this tutorial.
  • You must not download music from the web, unless the web page permits it; nor must you take part in file sharing with others. Both of these are very serious breaches of copyright and can have grave consequences for you and for the University.
  • If you are creating your own web page then make sure you start from scratch. Taking and adapting someone else’s web pages is a clear breach of copyright law. When you add hypertext links to your page, check that you always link to the front or home page of the web site. If you wish to make ‘deep links’, i.e. to link direct to a page beyond the home page, you should first obtain written permission from the copyright holder. Use text links rather than logos/graphics unless you have first obtained written permission to use these as links. Do not use frames or other display mechanisms which may give the impression that someone else’s website is your own work.
  • You might want to protect your own work on the web – you can attempt to do this by adding a simple copyright statement, e.g. © [year of publication] [name of author]. If the material is really important to you, it might be wiser not to put it on the web.

Staffordshire University. 2010. A student’s guide to copyright [online]. [Accessed 23 September 2010].

Creative Commons: Finding content you can use

Many creators of digital content will licence their work with a Creative Commons licence. This means that they clearly state how their content can be re-used, and what attributions you need to give to the author if you use it.

Works that have a Creative Commons licence will be marked with a logo like this. The logo will link to the Creative Commons website, with further details of what the licence allows you to do. This one, for example, allows you to share and use the work, but not to make any modifications.

You can search for digital works that have a CC licence via the Creative Commons website.

Similarly, you may wish to consider attaching a CC licence to your own work, if you are releasing digital content into the public domain. There are various licensing options available; visit the Creative Commons website to find out more.

Copyright and your own work

Students will normally own IPR in the work which they produce, including essays, masters level dissertation etc.  Examples where this is not the case include:

  • Copyright of Work, the Design Rights of a Product or Patent of an Invention that is produced by a student in the course of his/her employment at the School;
  • A student transferring any or all of his/her IPR to a third party, such as an external sponsor or work placement body;
  • A student contributing to a project, the IPR to which are owned by a member of staff, the School or other third party;
  • The Copyright of a PhD theses, which since October 2007 has been jointly owned by the student (or Author) and the School.

Finding out more

You’ve reached the end of the Copyright for students guide.
We hope you’ve found it useful and that you’ve found out a few things you didn’t already know!
This guide has introduced you to some of the main issues involved with Copyright, but there’s a lot more to learn! Some useful web resources are listed below:

This work is adapted from the University of Leeds Copyright for Students tutorial and licensed under Creative Commons.