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Copyright: Copyright Basics

A useful source of information and advice on Copyright in HE

Copyright Basics

Whether you are a student or member of staff at Birmingham City University, the following is provided to give a better understanding of copyright and help you stay within the law when using copyrighted materials.

Use the tabs above to find basic information on common copyright issues regarding key material types and licences held by Library and Learning Resources.

This guidance does not claim to be comprehensive or a substitute for legal advice. If you need further assistance please contact Tom Rowley (see panel below)

If you need advice or guidance on any issue relating to Copyright and your activities at BCU, please feel free to make a booking for a 30min consultation


Copyright law

Why do we have copyright law?

The law of copyright exists to protect the intellectual standing and economic rights of creators and publishers. UK Copyright law is set out in the Copyright, Design and Patents Act (1988) and its amendments.

UK Copyright protection:

  • is automatic upon creation of an original work

  • covers the following types of works: original literary, typographical, dramatic, music or artistic, sound recordings, films and broadcasts

  • By default, rests with the author/creator of the work, but can be passed to others (e.g. employer/publisher) by contract.

  • generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies.

Copyright Literacy Twitter Feed

BCU Copyright Podcast

Listen to our new Copyright Podcast where we talk about the concept of Fair Dealing.

Birmingham City University · Fair Dealing Podcast Mixdown

General Hints and Tips for Staff and Students


Any article or book chapter that you wish to make available for your students must be requested via the Digital Library team who will create a high quality, accessible link under the CLA HE licence.

  • You can then embed this link in your Moodle schedule or reading list.This can all be acquired by contacting the Digital Library team.
  • For more information about how to get copyright compliant PDF’s, see the “Digitisation Service” tab on this guide.

Full Works:

  • It is best practice to not upload your own PDF copies of works, especially if they are copies of the whole work, because this will certainly be a breach of publisher and creator's copyright.
  • This is in order to observe the conditions of the CLA HE Licence and "Fair Dealing" wherein only that which is required to illustrate an educational point is used and no more than that.


  • Any images that you wish to use have to be attributed with a short title and the author/illustrator/source. Even with images that allow free use of their images, it is always best practice to attribute properly. 


The use of deeplinks should be avoided.

  • As an example, a link to (the homepage) would be fine, but a link to (a deeper link) might not be. 

Note: This is just an example, deeplinks to BCU pages are fine to include on your Moodle pages and in your teaching resources.

  • You can check the terms and conditions of the website you wish to link to, some will say that linking to any part of their site is allowed, some will expressly forbid deeplinking, and some may not have any specific terms about it. In the last instance, if it does not expressly state their rules, assume that deeplinking is not allowed for that site.

YouTube and Videos:

  • We would advise against using YouTube links because the videos could be infringing copyright themselves; and the video, or even the whole channel, could be taken down without warning.
  • However, if you must use YouTube, ensure that you have attributed the author/creator and title of the video and have embedded the video into a PowerPoint presentation. Additionally, use as little of the clip as possible in order to observe "Fair Dealing".
  • The use of BoB is preferred when you need to use clips in your teaching. BoB has very easy to follow instructions on how to use it. For further information see the "YouTube/BoB" tab on this guide.

General Referencing:

  • When doing your work, ensure that you reference your sources according to your department’s referencing system.
  • Remember to note all of the relevant information relating to your source when taking notes (e.g. Author, title, date, page numbers etc.) – this will make it easier to include the source’s work in an essay or other assessed work later.

Image Referencing:

  • This also applies to images – you will need a page reference for the image caption (as well as any Creative Commons licence attribution and other information required by your department’s referencing system) and a full reference for the source in the relevant section of your work.

If you find yourself in a situation where you believe it would help to track the IP rights of a copyright work then the links below may be helpful:

When is copying allowed?

Copying is permitted when:

  • you are the author/creator of the work (except where copyright has passed to an employer or publisher).

  • you have written permission to copy from the rights holder(s) or their agent.

  • the work is out of copyright, in the Public Domain, or under a suitable Creative Commons Licence.

  • the work and amount copied is permitted under one of our University Licences

  • the copying is permitted under an exception to the Copyright act and falls within the limitations of 'Fair Dealing' IPO RSS Feed

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