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Copyright Guide: FAQs

A practical guide on copyright and licensing issues aimed at staff, students and researchers at the University of Sussex

Frequently Asked Questions

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Can I upload a copy of an electronic journal article, that the University subscribes to, to my course website in Study Direct?

The terms of use set out in licences with individual publishers and information providers vary. In the vast majority of cases, a current University of Sussex staff or student member can:

  • search and retrieve items
  • print and/or download individual items for personal use for teaching, learning and research
  • If you are adding an electronic journal article to a module website in Study Direct, it is good practice to link through to the article rather than downloading the pdf and uploading the file to Study Direct, as not all licences cover this option.

Can I use copyrighted images in my essays, dissertation or thesis?

You can include any material, apart from sheet music, for the purpose of assessment or examination. The point to note is that this exception applies only 'for the purposes of examination' therefore any further use, including making the work available online may be a copyright infringement if it includes material copied from another work.

If your are a doctoral researcher, University Regulations include the requirement to submit an electronic copy of your thesis that will be openly accessible on Sussex Research Online and on the British Library's EThOS service. In which case you may need to seek permission to use images (or other 3rd party copyright material) in your thesis, as the legal exception only applies for examination purposes and not for the subsequent re-use. Please see further guidance under Doctoral Theses.

Is the duration of copyright the same for unpublished works?

No. Most unpublished literary, dramatic and musical works (where the author is known) will still be in copyright until 2039 at the earliest. Until the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act came into force in 1989, unpublished works (archival material, private letters or photographs) enjoyed perpetual copyright. The duration varies for different types of material; see Tim Padfield's duration of copyright flowcharts for further information, available online from the JISC guide 'Copyright and Digital Images', section 7, 'Duration of Copyright'.

Are there exceptions in copyright law for copying material for the visually impaired?

Yes. Provided that an adequate commercial copy is not available. This exception is subject to a number of conditions:

  • an equivalent accessible copy must not be commercially available. You can search the Royal National Institute of the Blind's Library Catalogue to check whether a publication is already available commercially in an accessible format.
  • the original print copy must remain with any accessible versions, so that only one person can 'read' the work at any one time, as with print.
  • the accessible copy must include full bibliographic details of its source (author, title, publisher, edition) and a statement that the copy has been created under the terms of section 31A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as amended by the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002.

If the author of a work is unknown, can I go ahead and use if anyway?

No, this would be an infringement of copyright. However you can mitigate the risks involved in using an orphan work, if you first make every effort to trace the rights holder and document your efforts. This is often referred to as 'due diligence'. Use the Web2.0 Rights Risk Calculator for guidance on the level of risk involved in using different types of material.

What percentage of a copyright work can be photocopied or scanned for creating paper course packs or digitised extracts for teaching?

The limits on photocopying or scanning for course provision are:

  • one chapter from a book or 10%, which ever is the greater
  • one article from an issue of a journal or 10%, which ever is the greater
  • One short story, poem or play (not exceeding 10 pages in length) from an anthology
  • One paper from a set of conference proceedings or 10% whichever is the greater
  • One report of a single case from a volume of judicial proceedings or 10%, whichever is the greater

What is Crown copyright?

It is copyright material which is produced by employees of the Crown in the course of their duties. Most material originated by ministers and civil servants is protected by Crown copyright. Crown copyright covers a range of material, including legislation, government codes of practice, Ordance Survey mapping, government reports, official press releases and many public records. Most published material will feature a Crown copyright statement © Crown copyright.

The duration of copyright in Crown material lasts for 50 years from the end of the year in which the work was published. Unpublished works are protected for 125 years from the end of the year in which the work was made or until 31 December 2039, if created after 1989 (50 years after the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 came into force).

In some cases it is  possible to freely re-use Crown copyright material under the Open Government Licence.This will be clearly stated on the resource if this is the case. The material must be acknowledged as being protected by Crown copyright and the title of the source material must be supplied.

Can I show a films and television programmes in lectures and seminars?

Yes. The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) provides an exception for showing a film for the purposes of instruction provided that the audience is limited to lecturers, students or other persons directly connected with activities of the University for the purposes of instruction.


The information contained within these pages is intended as a general guide and an interpretation of current copyright issues. It is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.



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Getting help

 For help with general queries about copying  from print, audiovisual or electronic publications, please email