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Copyright: Copyright of written works

A useful source of information and advice on Copyright in HE

Copyright of written works


Written works, also described as 'typographical works', are protected under copyright law. This protection starts at the point of their creation and lasts until 70 years after the death of the author. 

Typographical work is a broad term which incorporates the majority of written works likely to be used by university members - including books, journals, articles, presentations and conference papers etc.

We may legally own copies or access to such works, however that doesn't give us unlimited license to reproduce it. Within the law we are able to make limited use of exceptions to create copies and we also pay for blanket licensing schemes (as detailed in the boxes below). However where these are not sufficient to cover use permission must be obtained by the copyright holder.

By default the copyright will belong to the author, however it is common among academic writing that the copyright is transferred by contract either to the employer or to a publisher upon publication.

The universities CLA licence

BCU pay fees to participate in a blanket licensing scheme provided by the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency).This is a scheme that allows us to make proportional copies (scanned or physical) from copyright protected works for the purposes of teaching, research and study.

Generally speaking this license covers most of our needs, with the following caveats:

  • BCU Libraries own a copy of the work (note personal copies owned by lecturer don't apply)
  • The extract is of no more than 1 chapter, article or 10% of the whole 
  • BCU report on the copying and copies held
  • The copy is shared via a secure link and only to the cohort of students on that module 
  • The works' copyright holder hasnt opted out of the scheme

There are limitations on how this is applied and all digital copying (i.e. scanned extracts to be included on Moodle) must be carried out by the Digital Library. More information and a request form for scanning can be found on the library website. It is also possible to request scanned copies from your Reading List.

Public Domain and Creative Commons

Works where copyright has expired (due to time extents) may be used freely as they are classed as being in the 'Public Domain'. It is important to note that this is not the same as "publicly accessible" and just because a work is freely available does not mean its reuse is Public Domain.

Works licensed under Creative Commons schemes can be used subject to the terms of the particular CC licence applied to them. It's a misconception that Creative Commons is a catch-all term and that any CC licence allows free and unlimited reuse. 

There are 6 main Creative Commons licences and all require acknowledgement, and each will have different restrictions on redistribution, derivative works and copy-left licensing.

The only Creative Commons licence to fully put works into the public domain for free reuse is CC0.

See the Creative Commons tab in this guide for more detailed information.

Exceptions within the act

You can make limited use of copyright text works under a series of exceptions within the Copyright Act itself. There are many exceptions which apply to university activity, however none give unlimited permission to copy and reuse and all must be subject to 'Fair Dealing'. The two main exceptions relevant in most cases for university use are;

Illustration for instruction:
​You can make limited use of copyright work for educational purposes without infringing copyright (i.e. sharing copies of an extract in the classroom, or via an interactive whiteboard or as part of an examination exercise). 
​The copying must be deemed as 'Fair Dealing' and so the extent copied must be only what is reasonably required. In typographical works this is generally considered to be 5% of the whole. You must also wherever possible credit the creator, and you should not make subsequent extract copies from the same work (for example to avoid purchasing a textbook).

Research and Private study:
​Students and Researchers are permitted to make fair dealing copies of text works for their own personal study and use, however these must be proportionate and the copying must be deemed 'Fair Dealing'. Typically this is seen to be making a copy of no more than 5% of the whole of a work, taking one article from a journal or one chapter from a book. 
​This allows you to make copies for your own reference, to collate current awareness collections, and to include segments of works in your assignments and assessments. It does not permit you to share these works with others outside of a classroom setting, to share additional copies or to publish the works as part of an output.


The full list of exceptions can be seen within the act and there are also guidance notes authored by the IPO available via

Fair Dealing

Exceptions within the act are subject to the application of 'Fair Dealing'. This is a legal term with no prescribed definition, but which aims to assess whether a particular act of copying is reasonable and fair to the copyright holder.

While the IPO state that the application of fair dealing is 'case by case' with no strict definition, they do quote two guiding principals:

  • does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it, causing the owner to lose revenue, then it is not likely to be fair
  • is the amount of the work taken reasonable and appropriate? Was it necessary to use the amount that was taken? Usually only part of a work may be used

In context this means that the greater proportion copied, the less likely it is to be fair dealing. Equally copying with commercial implications (such as for publication) is unlikely to be deemed 'Fair Dealing'. Guidance on Fair Dealing is available on the IPO pages of but the libraries copyright specialists can also help you assess whether your copying is fair.

You can listen to our podcast  about Fair Dealing here:

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