A document describing copyright issues important to researchers, teachers and learners. It starts by highlighting the importance of copyright – since almost every word and piece of data UK researchers use probably has some kind of copyright on it and then offers a number of guidelines on how to manage copyright issues.

Copyright matters for UK researchers, teachers & learners

April 2008

Report summary

A document describing copyright issues important to researchers, teachers and learners. It starts by highlighting the importance of copyright – since almost every word and piece of data UK researchers use probably has some kind of copyright on it and then offers a number of guidelines on how to manage copyright issues. These include:

  • Get to know copyright law
  • Have respect for authors – and imagine how you would feel if you yourself were infringed
  • Find out if your employer has a copyright policy and what it is
  • Remember student rights and to acknowledge them too

Next there is a brief overview of what can and can’t be copied (with notes on the importance of looking out for Creative Commons licenses.) and how copyright affects what researchers write, with references provided for places to look for help.

As far as publishing goes, there are tips about the importance of caution when signing away rights, reading any documents publishers request researchers to sign and how to express which rights they wish to protect.

Finally there is a section on the complex area of data rights and the complications surrounding who has copyright when multiple parties are involved in collecting and collating data.

There is also a glossary of technical terms.

Key points

“Under the UK Copyright Act 1988 the “fair dealing” provision allows for copying of a reasonable proportion of a work for “non-commercial research or private study”. No clear definitions exist of the limits of this provision, but a commonly-used guideline (which, it must be stressed, has no legal force) is that you should copy no more than a single copy of one article from a journal volume or no more than 5% of a published book.”

“If an author has used a Creative Commons symbol or in another way indicated whether they are happy for their work can be copied, the user can be confident. If no such indication has been provided by the author, however, a cautious approach needs to be adopted in copying a work which is in copyright (works remain in copyright until 70 years after the death of the creator). A user should write to the publisher or author if they wish to copy a substantial part of the work, or to make multiple copies.”

“As an author, you normally, but not always, own the copyright in the words you write, whether or not you go on to publish your work.”

“You should always think carefully before signing away any rights which may be important to you or to others in the academic community.”

Read the full report (Word)