Copyright Guidance

What is copyright?

Copyright is a legal concept that grants authors and artists control over certain uses of their creations for defined periods of time. It limits who may copy, change, perform, or share those creations. (Berkman Centre, 2012:10)

Why is it important?

Failure to observe copyright and intellectual property laws can lead to individual and corporate prosecution, and major reputation damage for your employer. Therefore, copyright compliance features in our employment contracts.

Copyright compliance has a moral aspect, too: it means ensuring we are caring colleagues and we provide our students with a good example.

What rights are protected?


Authors are entitled to the integrity of their works and to be recognised as their creators, even if they have sold their economic rights. The works created by QA employees are owned by QA, but the employees remain the authors of those works and have the right to be recognised as such.


Rightsholders are entitled to benefit economically from their works. Piracy is a typical example of infringing the economic rights of copyright holders.


A published work (e.g. a book), contains not only the text but also illustrations; its design and typesetting may be protected too – copying certain designs would infringe the rights of their creators.

Works can be used if...

  • they are in the public domain or licenced under certain Creative Commons, Open Data or similar licences; if in doubt, assume copyright protection applies.

  • copyright exceptions for research or teaching, or other exceptions are applicable.

  • according to certain licences, e.g. CLA HE, if applicable.

  • a rights holder’s permission is granted (normally, in writing).

Exceptions to copyright

Detailed advice on

Illustration for instruction

Short excerpts are permitted; fair dealing applies. This exception is particularly relevant for developing QAHE-own teaching content and handouts.

Anthologies for educational use

Short excerpts are allowed; fair dealing applies; most content must be copyright-free. This exception may be helpful for developing QAHE-own study packs and handouts.

Copying and use of extracts of works

Up to 5% per year from a single work not covered by the CLA or NLA licences across an institution is permitted; records must be held. In practice, this exception excludes most English-language textbooks and monographs from copying for classroom use.

Making accessible copies

Full-text copying is permitted; records must be held. At QAHE, accessible copies are arranged by the Library.

Fair dealing

The law does not have a clear-cut definition of fair dealing for every possible instance. As a simple test, “what would a fair-minded and honest person think?” (Pedley, 2015:40) can be used and the following conditions observed:

  • The use of the work does not harm the rights holder’s ability to market or sell the work.

  • The amount that has been used is reasonable and appropriate.

5% or one chapter from a book, or one article from a magazine is often cited as a reasonable amount permitted for copying under fair dealing; however, this is only rough guidance. For example, depending on the relative importance of the excerpt, copying a short report summary may constitute infringement.

When copying under fair dealing, an acknowledgement has to be provided.

A helpful discussion of fair dealing is available on the SOAS Library's website. For clarification, please contact librarians.

CLA Licence

Lecturers teaching on QAHE franchised programmes in partnership with London Metropolitan University, Middlesex University, Ulster University, Solent University and the University of Roehampton can rely on the CLA HE licence for copying certain publications from those Universities' collections, including for student use.

This does not cover the publications in the QAHE library collection.

A good detailed explanation of the CLA HE licence is available on the SOAS Library's website. For clarification, please contact QAHE librarians.

QAHE and our partner universities advise that publications (e.g. journal articles) or their excerpts (e.g. multiple ebook pages) should not be uploaded to VLEs unless those publications are in the public domain or a relevant licence (e.g. a Creative Commons licence) applies.

Hyperlinking to the publications available in university or open-access databases (but not to pirated copies) is always a preferred option.

Examples of copyright infringement in HE practice

  • Uploading publications onto a VLE; even if a publication is freely available online, it does not mean it can be freely published, including being uploaded onto a VLE.

  • Converting webpages into PDF files for sharing on a VLE or by email.

  • Multiple photocopying without written permission from the rights-holder, unless a relevant licence (e.g. CLA HE) applies.

  • Introducing students and colleagues to pirated content.

Copyright compliance examples

  • Correct: A lecturer creates a link to a webpage or journal article, or uses a short extract for illustration.

Incorrect: A lecturer uploads articles, images, videos etc. which are or may be under the copyright, onto a VLE.

  • Correct: A lecturer uses copyright-free works or works published under applicable Creative Commons licences.

Incorrect: A lecturer photocopied entire articles, chapters and other substantial parts of published works under copyright (unless an applicable licence, e.g. CLA HE) is observed.

  • Correct: A lecturer embeds a YouTube video using the URL provided by YouTube.

Incorrect: A lecturer extracts a video file from YouTube, iPlayer and similar using third-party software or service.


Berkman Centre (2012) Copyright for Librarians. Module 1: Copyright and the Public Domain. Available at: (Accessed 28 May 2020).

Cornish, Graham P. (2019) Copyright: interpreting the law for libraries, archives and information services. London: Facet Publishing.

Pedley, P. (2015) Practical copyright for library and information professionals. London: Facet Publishing.