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Copyright for researchers

If you want to copy or reuse copyrighted material in your research, you will usually need to seek permission from the copyright owner. However, limited amounts of material can be used for private and non-commercial research as long as it is fair to the copyright owner.

Specific copyright rules apply to databases and text and data mining.

Copying library materials

UK copyright law allows you to make a single copy of an article or book chapter for private study and non-commercial research. Such copies should not be shared with others.

Copies must be fair to the copyright owner and therefore should not exceed:

  • 5% of the total pages of a work
  • one chapter from a book
  • one article from a journal issue.

Under UK copyright law, we can copy material to make it accessible for a person with a disability.

Copying material from the internet

Material on the internet is protected by copyright in the same way as books and journals. Check the terms of use on individual websites to see if specific conditions are applied.

It is possible to find free-to-use content online. Some websites make material available for use under a licence, such as Creative Commons.

Do not assume that material is free to use if there is no copyright statement.

Using quotes

You may include short quotes in your work, as long as they are solely for the purposes or criticism and review. You must adequately cite and reference and ensure you keep to the following limits:

  • Quotes from prose (fiction or non-fiction) should not exceed 400 words.
  • Quotes from poetry should not exceed 40 lines, or a quarter of a poem, whichever is the lesser amount.

You should not use song lyrics without securing permission from the copyright holder.

Using images and videos

If you would like to use images to illustrate a presentation, your thesis, or published work, we advise that you use your own photos or find free content online.

You will need to secure permission from the copyright owner if you need to include images (photographs, diagrams, maps, charts etc), video, and audio (including musical scores and song lyrics) created by other people in any work you publish.

This also applies to theses. You must get permission if you intend to use copyrighted material in the final version of your thesis, published on White Rose eTheses Online.

You may include copyrighted images and videos without permission if they are crucial to your argument and are only included in the version of your thesis that you submit for assessment.

Using trademarks

If you would like to use illustrations of registered trademarks (denoted by ®) you must secure permission from the holder of the registration for that trademark. The registered holder is unlikely to consider an extract from a registered trademark to be insubstantial.

Using data, databases and tables

UK copyright law does not apply to data, as merely collecting together numbers, images, and other measurements is not considered a creative process.

Tables are protected by copyright as literary works, however, as arranging data in a table is seen as a creative process.

If some level of originality has been used in the selection or arrangement of content, a database will be protected by copyright.

If the creators of a database can prove they have made a substantial investment to obtain and verify content, a database will be protected by database rights. Research data is likely to fall into this category.

Database rights last for 15 years from creation and 15 years from publication. They prevent others from reusing substantial amounts of data; however, the reuse of insubstantial amounts of data is permitted.

Text and data mining

A specific exception to UK copyright allows you to make copies and analyse copyrighted material. This exception only applies if:

  • you have lawful access to the content (this includes Library subscriptions)
  • your research is non-commercial
  • you attribute the source (unless this is impractical)
  • you do not use copies made under the exception for any other purpose

If it is impractical to reference individual material that you have copied from a database, you should cite the database.