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Copyright and licensing in Higher Education

Guidance for copyright and licensing issues

Exceptions to copyright and fair dealing: Overview

There are some specific situations, known as copyright exceptions, that allow limited use of copyright works without seeking the permission of the copyright owner.  These exceptions are listed below, along with information about "fair dealing" (how much you can reasonably use), followed by links to the Intellectual Property Office website for further information.


The Intellectual Property Office has also produced a guide Exceptions to Copyright: Education and TeachingKey things to note within this guide are that the law now allows copying of works in any medium as long as the following conditions apply: 

1. the work must be used solely to illustrate a point

2. the use of the work must not be for commercial purposes

3. the use must be fair dealing

4. it must be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.

This means minor uses, such as displaying a few lines of poetry on an interactive whiteboard, are permitted, but uses which would undermine sales of teaching materials still need a licence.

Detailed information about these Exceptions to copyright can be found on the Intellectual Property Office website.

© Crown Copyright.

IPO Copyright information is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0. open government licence logo

Copyright exceptions: Fair dealing - how much can you copy?

Certain exceptions only apply if the use of the work is a fair dealing. For example, the exceptions relating to research and private study, criticism or review, or news reporting.

Fair dealing’ is a legal term used to establish whether a use of copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright. There is no statutory definition of fair dealing - it will always be a matter of fact, degree and impression in each case. The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work?

Factors that have been identified by the courts as relevant in determining whether a particular dealing with a work is fair include:

  • does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it, causing the owner to lose revenue, then it is not likely to be fair.

  • is the amount of the work taken reasonable and appropriate? Was it necessary to use the amount that was taken? Usually only part of a work may be used.

The relative importance of any one factor will vary according to the case in hand and the type of dealing in question.

© Crown Copyright.

IPO Copyright information is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0open government licence logo


This information is for general guidance and background information only and does not constitute legal advice. The University of Northampton does not accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage incurred as a result of relying on information contained on this website. 


Much of this content has been adapted and reproduced from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) under the Open Government Licence v.3.0. Where content has been derived in this manner, it has been attributed as follows:

© Crown Copyright.

IPO Copyright information is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0. open government licence logo