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Copyright and licensing in Higher Education

Guidance for copyright and licensing issues

Guidance for students

Within education, copying by students for research, private studycriticism or review, or news reporting are covered under fair dealing and the exceptions to copyright law that permit certain acts of copying without the permission of the copyright owner.

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

When can I make copies of someone else's work?

Unless the work is out of copyright, you can only copy someone else's work:

Even if a work is out of copyright, proper credit should still be given to the creator through referencing or an attribution.

Who owns the copyright for work I produce as a student?

Who owns the copyright?

In general, the author or creator of the work owns the copyright. For example, in the context of Higher Education, students own their own copyright.

However, if work is created by an employee in the course of their employment, the copyright is owned by their employer. This means the University of Northampton owns the copyright of material created by staff as part of their employment. 

For more information on the ownership of copyright works, see the specific IPO Ownership of Copyright Works web pages. 


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