Almost all the learning resources that you use as a student will be covered by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You need to understand the basics of copyright so that you obey the law, avoid plagiarism, and know how to protect your work.

Fortunately, there are exceptions under the current law that allow you to copy for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study within reasonable limits, under what is known as 'fair dealing'. This generally permits you to make single copies of small amounts of a copyright work.

Copyright exceptions

Copying for private study and research

Copyright allows making single copies or taking short extracts of works when the use is made for non-commercial research or for private study. The purpose is to provide students and researchers broader access to copyright works. There is no exact definition of what is considered a 'fair' amount, however below is some guidance on what would be considered fair:

  • One article in a single issue of a journal or set of conference proceedings, or a single law report;
  • An extract from a book amounting to 5% of the whole or a complete chapter, whichever is greater;
  • A whole poem or short story from a collection, provided the item is not more than 10 pages;
  • Up to 10% (maximum of 20 pages) per short book (without chapters), report, pamphlet or Standard Specification;
  • One separate illustration or map up to A4 size;
  • Short excerpts only from musical works (not whole works or movements). No copying is allowed for performance purposes.

For further information, please view the copyright exceptions for education.

Copying for criticism and review: quoting others’ work

There will be times when you wish to include, or make reference to, material which is not your own (i.e. which is someone else’s copyright) when completing an assignment. It is legitimate to include quotations for the purposes of criticism and review, but you must make sure that such material is properly acknowledged or cited.

Shorter quotations of a few words or sentences may be used to illustrate a point, but not to replace using your own words. These must also be correctly acknowledged. See our guides on referencing for more details.

Disabled users and copying into alternative formats

An accessible copy is a copy that has been changed to make it easier to read by a student with a disability. UK copyright law permits a disabled student, or library staff, to make an accessible copy of items in the Library's collection, except where a suitable commercial copy is available to purchase at a reasonable cost. The library has an Alternative Formats Service that can do this copying for you.

In order to make the alternative format copy, the following conditions apply:

  • The disabled person, or UWE Bristol library, must own the item to be copied
  • The item must not be already available in the relevant alternative format

Contact us for more information about requesting accessible copies.


The University has also taken out a number of licences which permit its students and staff to copy more than is allowed by the Act, although what can be copied is still strictly limited. The most important of these for students is the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) licence which gives permissions to copy and reuse content from print and digital publications. This covers such things as class handouts. You will see posters above all photocopiers in the library detailing how much you can copy under the licence.

Other licences

Below is a list of links to the major licences with which the University has agreements. For further information about these licences, please contact us.

Educational Recording Agency (ERA)

An ERA licence permits educational establishments to record off-air, and make copies, for non-commercial educational purposes, of programmes broadcast by its members. It also permits electronic communication of licenced recordings within an educational establishment.

Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA)

The NLA licence provides annual blanket permissions to copy and reuse content from print and digital newspaper publications.

Ordnance Survey

The Ordnance survey licence allows students, researchers, and those delivering teaching and learning to use Ordnance Survey mapping data as part of their learning.

Higher Education Printed Music Licence (HEPML)

UWE Bristol does not hold the Higher Education Printed Music Licence (HEPML) and the Library does not have a printed music collection.

If you need to access printed music there is a wide range of content available via the subject databases.

Music databases

Other ways to use copyrighted material

Whilst you may be able to use copyrighted material for assessment purposes under the copyright exceptions detailed above, you will need permission to use the same materials if you wish to share your work publicly ie on a blog. If you are copying in this way, it is recommended that you use copyright free sources.

You can use Advanced search in Google to find images that are licensed for reuse and Creative Commons Search lets you search across a range of CC licensed resources (images and media) provided by various organisations including Flickr and Wikimedia Commons. There are also many other image resources offering copyright-free images that can be used for educational purposes.

Your copyright

The original work that you produce in the course of your studies, such as dissertations, assignments, and projects will qualify for copyright.

You will normally own the copyright in your work. An exception might arise where pre-existing agreement allocates copyright to another party (for example, if you or a project you have worked on is sponsored or funded by an external organisation).

Copyright and the web

It is very easy to create, share and reuse content on the web but the laws regarding copyright and other intellectual property rights still apply.

When using any social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, be aware of the following points.

  • When you upload your own content to a social media site, you never lose your copyright. However by doing so, you agree to license your content to be hosted and used in specific ways as set out in the terms of service of that site.
  • You should not upload anything that you do not own the rights to, unless you have permission from the rights holder.
  • Check the terms and conditions carefully of any social media site you sign up to.
  • Check for information on copyright; if there isn't any then do not assume that copyright doesn't exist.
  • Do not email or transfer copyright material that you have legally downloaded to anyone else, particularly via a social media platform or Blackboard.
  • Only link to legal content or reuse material made available under a Creative Commons licence, unless you have written permission to reuse copyright content.
  • Be aware of any reposting of your own content on other people’s sites. If this does happen without your permission, you are within your rights to ask the infringing owner to remove your material.
  • No social media site will be held responsible for any legal consequences which may occur as a result of you uploading content which is unlawful.

Copying by non-UWE Bristol visitors to the library

Copying limits are the same as for UWE Bristol students and staff, as long as the copying is for non-commercial research, private study, criticism, review or reporting of current events.

Further information

UWE Bristol Intellectual Property Policy (PDF)

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