Copyright advice

Staff and students of IDS must comply with the legal restrictions on the use of other people’s intellectual property.


What can I copy?

[Note: using a scanner, camera, etc, to copy pages from a work is treated in the same way as photocopying].

When copying or scanning print or online resources you must adhere to the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 , and follow the UK’s ‘Fair dealing’ provision, as below.

  • You may copy, within the limits below, for private study or research (see further advice on copying for teaching).
  • You may copy one whole article or 5% (whichever is the greater) from a single issue of a journal / set of proceedings.
  • You may copy 10% from a paper / report (document without chapters).
  • You may copy one whole chapter or 5% (whichever is the greater) from a single book.
  • Fair dealing for criticism or review covers the use of quotations from other sources. The generally accepted limits are:
    • One extract of no more than 400 words or
    • Several extracts, none more than 300 words and totalling no more than 800 words or
    • Up to 40 lines from a poem (provided that this does not exceed a quarter of the whole poem)
  • Any material (other than musical works) may be copied for the purpose of setting or answering an examination question.
  • Materials from online databases and journals are subject to the same limitations as printed material.
  • Multiple copies may be made only under the terms of IDS’ specific license: more details on p3.

Note: Some books and journals have traditionally carried a warning that no part of the work may be copied without the permission of the copyright owner. This is usually thought of as an attempt to prohibit what the law allows and is therefore unlikely to stand up in a court of law.

Sharing documents: Emailing; sharing files; or other onward transmission [see page specifically relating to teaching]

  • You may not e-mail a copyrighted document to a colleague, or save it into a file sharing service (such as DropBox, GoogleDocs etc) unless you own the copyright, have been given permission by the copyright holder, or the document is licensed for such sharing.
  • If sharing in a group space (such as DropBox, GoogleDocs etc) any licence permitting this will ordinarily stipulate that access must be secure and restricted to authorised users.
  • Material from licensed databases (e-journal collections, library subscription e-resources etc) will be subject to the restrictions above, unless the terms and conditions state otherwise. This is the case even where you have a personal subscription. Onward transmission to, or sharing with, other authorised users or distribution to students for teaching purposes may be permitted, but the T&Cs / licences must be checked.
  • Material on the Internet is subject to copyright. There are a number of licensing schemes commonly used with online publication, which allow some free (usually non-commercial) use (and possibly re-use), eg GPL and Creative Commons.
  • If you are presenting/making/distributing copies of work that you find on the Internet you should check that the licence for the work (or terms and conditions of the site) allow this and that the site you obtained the work from is itself acting legally. If there is no such licence, apply for the copyright owner’s permission or provide links rather than the actual document. (See below).
  • Social media (including blogs and password-protected sites):There is a misconception that an image or document posted on a social network and attributed to its original author (with or without a link to the original source), does not infringe copyright. In fact, unless a copyright owner has granted permission for their image / document to be used (through an open licence or similar), you should be aware that attribution to an original author is not sufficient to avoid copyright infringement (though such attribution may be a condition of the permission for use).

Linking is often the safest solution. If you are not sure of copyright permission, you can link to the online source rather than uploading / providing the actual document.


  • The Copyright Licencing Agency regularly audits libraries to establish that suitable procedures are being implemented within the organisation to ensure copyright compliance. We were last audited in 2010, and could be again at any time.
  • Publishers / rights holders may become aware of misuse of their own materials, depending on the dissemination. Journal publishers are increasingly employing sophisticated tracking devices, and it is very easy for rights-holders of images to check for infringement, for example using Google images. Many PDFs are encrypted in order for publishers to trace use.
  • Fines for deliberately infringing copyright can be considerable (thousands of pounds), and in some cases publishers may remove access to electronic resources

Further help

  • Contact BLDS if you would like further information or advice.
  • Contact the IDS Directorate if you are unsure whether an individual, IDS, publisher, or partner organisation holds/is eligible to assert copyright.

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