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Copyright: Copyright Basics

Copyright Basics

                                                                  Front View of Curzon Building BCU

Image credits:, logo designed by Tom Rowley 

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)

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.

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'


Tom Rowley's picture
Tom Rowley
Curzon Building,
4 Cardigan St,
B4 7BD
0121 202 4607

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