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Copyright: Copyright Exceptions & Fair Dealing

Copyright for students

You are permitted to re-use copyrighted material if it's for one of the following purposes:

  • your own private study
  • non-commercial research
  • criticism and review - to make a critical point, to support an argument, for example in an essay, dissertation or thesis, or when answering an examination question.

Do not exceed safe copying limits. The information in this section will help you decide if your copying is safe.

Fair Dealing for Research and Private Study (s.29 CDPA)

UK copyright law permits fair dealing with a work for the purposes of non commercial research and private study. All types of copyright work are covered. This means that researchers and students can copy extracts from sound recordings, films and broadcast as well as literary, dramatic and musical works for these purposes. Acknowledgement of the source must be provided.

Only a single copy can be made. The exception cannot be overridden by contract.

The following limits are generally assumed to be acceptable:

  • No more than one chapter from a book OR
  • One article from a journal or periodical OR
  • One single case report from a Law Report OR
  • No more than 5% of any given work whichever is the greater

A poem, short story or short literary work is regarded as a "work" in itself and may not be copied in its entirety under the terms of Section 29 of the CDPA.

Copyright Exceptions and Fair Dealing

Copyright exceptions provide a legal defence for people using copyright works without the rights holders permission. There are a number of exceptions which could apply to HE activities and as of 1 October 2014 these have been expanded to reflect technological changes in the education and research environment. However despite the new exceptions generally benefitting students, researchers and educational institutions, they should still be relied upon with caution as they will only apply in limited circumstances and are subject to a test of fairness.

The concept of fair dealing is an important one for education and research in the UK, but is often confused with fair use which is actually a doctrine from US law. Both fair dealing and fair use effectively serve the same function to allow fair use of copyright works for societally beneficial purposes but the UK system is more specific and restrictive.

The key fair dealing exceptions for education and research are summarised below, with references to the relevant clauses in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of exceptions and conditions will apply to each of these:


Description of exception

CDPA clause

Making single, limited, personal copies of copyright works for non-commercial research & private study purposes


Copying copyright material for the purposes of text mining and data mining


Reproducing copyright works for the purposes of quotation, parody, or criticism and review


Making accessible copies of copyright works for the personal use of disabled people


Reproducing copyright material for the purposes of illustration for instruction. This now allows fair digital copying for a teaching event, for examinations, theses and potentially use in a VLE


Performing, playing or showing a copyright work for the purposes of instruction in an educational establishment


Copying of extracts from copyright works and use of multiple copies (subject to AECC University College’s CLA licence)


Copying by libraries and archives for the purposes of preservation


For the fair dealing defences to apply you will need to do the following:
  • provide acknowledgement of the rights holder with the copies, unless it is impractical to do so
  • ensure the use of the work does not compete with the normal exploitation of it by the rights holder
  • ensure that the use of the work is not excessive (eg copying the whole work when only an extract is required)
  • ensure that the use of the work is not for commercial purposes.  
Readers with disabilities are allowed to make accessible copies of copyright works, or to have accessible versions made for them, as long as this is for personal use and an accessible copy is not already commercially available. Prior to 1 June 2014 this exception only related to users with visual impairments but has now been widened to cover anyone whose disabilities prevent equal access to copyright material. See Accessible formats for disabled people (from the Intellectual Property Office) (pdf). 


Copyright FAQs