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Copyright: Introduction

Copyright Guide

Welcome to your copyright guide. These guidelines aim to help students and staff stay within the law when using copyright material. Copyright is a complex subject and the information on these webpages does not cover every aspect of the law nor is it intended as a replacement for legal advice.

We would like to thank Chris Morrison, Copyright and Licensing Compliance Officer at the University of Kent, for allowing us to adapt their Copyright Guidance for use at AECC University College.

We would also like to thank copyright expert Naomi Korn for sharing her expertise with us.

Further help

Contact Learning Services for further help and advice. 
Phone: +44 (0)1202 436306

Copyright FAQs

What is Copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property right which covers all original, creative outputs of the human mind once fixed in a tangible form (e.g. written down or recorded). It therefore covers books, journals, paintings, photographs, software, music, film, sound recordings, broadcasts and many other things whether published or not. Copyright also arises automatically as soon as these works are fixed (even if they only ever exist in a digital format) so it can extend to works that many do not realise are copyright protected such as private letters, drawings, emails and contributions to social media services.

Copyright lasts for a set period of time, during which it is illegal to do certain restricted acts without the permission of the copyright holder. In the UK these acts are defined in the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act as the exclusive right to:

  • copy the work
  • issue copies of the work to the public 
  • rent or lend the work to the public
  • perform, show or play the work in public
  • communicate the work to the public (which covers making available on the Internet)
  • make an adaptation of the work or do any of the above in relation to an adaptation

It is therefore important when working with copyright material to either ensure that the relevant permissions to do any of the above have been obtained, or to determine that copyright exceptions apply.

Copyright exceptions: education, research and non-commercial activity

Under UK law there are certain defences that can be used when copyright material is used without the copyright holders permission. These defences are known as exceptions to copyright and as of 1 October 2014 these have been expanded to cover a wider range of education and research activities. These defences are generally known as fair dealing exceptions as they enable fair but limited use of copyright works. However they cannot be applied to all possible uses within an HE environment so should only be relied upon following careful consideration.

What are related rights?

Related rights are rights that arise alongside copyright and work in a similar way, the most relevant of which are:

  • performers rights: the rights in a recording of a performance of any kind, including a lecture or presentation.
  • moral rights: the right to be credited as the author of a copyright work and for the work not be used in a derogatory way.
  • database rights: rights that arise in the selection and presentation of data in a database whether electronic or not.

In a nutshell

Nutshell, Pixabay PD.
Copyright gives protection to the owner of the rights to an original work.
The owner will often be the creator, but this is not always the case. This means that individuals who want to reproduce the work of others need to seek permission to do so.
Image CC0 PD, from Pixabay.

Why is copyright important to AECC University College?

The University College has a responsibility to act lawfully and to provide staff, students, visitors and partners with relevant information regarding the law. Infringing activity taking place at the University College could lead to legal action and there are financial and reputational risks associated with this.

Fundamentally it is important that AECC University College, as an educational establishment, provides clear messages on the law and how it affects those working and studying within it.