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Copyright explained

Copyright basics

Copyright is an automatic right assigned to the creator of any piece of original work. This could be one person, multiple people or a company. Copyright allows the owner to control how their work is used.

A copyright owner has the exclusive right to copy, distribute, perform, broadcast or adapt a work.

Anyone who wants to reproduce copyrighted work must seek permission from the copyright holder, or check whether the owner has permitted particular use through a licence.

There are some exceptions that allow the use of copyrighted material without permission from the owner. These only apply under very specific circumstances. Some of these exceptions are relevant to educational use, but you will still need to stay within certain limits.

Copyright lasts for a fixed period. This ranges from decades to centuries. Once works are out of copyright they become freely available in the public domain, although other restrictions on reuse may apply.

The University and Library regulations require you to abide by copyright legislation and the terms of any University licences.

What copyright protects

Any original work that has been written or recorded in any form is protected by copyright. This applies for both published and unpublished works.

Copyright protection automatically applies for the following:

  • literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work
  • software, web content, and databases
  • film and television recordings
  • sound and music recordings
  • layout of published editions.

Copyright does not protect ideas, thoughts or facts.