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Copyright and Students

There are a number of areas in which student activities interact with UK copyright law.


During your studies you may want to copy or download third-party materials such as book chapters, journal articles and images. This material is likely to be covered by UK copyright law, which limits the amount of material that you can legally copy. New technologies also facilitate the copying and sharing of content online, making copyright infringement commonplace.

Fortunately, current law allows you to copy some things 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.

What copyright exceptions are there for students with disabilities?

All disabled people are now covered by the legislation where their impairment affects their ability to study or work on an equal basis as someone without impairment.

All copyright work can now be altered to an appropriate format, as long as suitable accessible copies are not available for purchase.

This may include:

  • making Braille, audio or large-print copies of books, newspapers or magazines for visually impaired people
  • adding audio description to films or broadcasts for visually impaired people
  • making subtitled films or broadcasts for deaf or hard of hearing people
  • making accessible copies of books, newspapers or magazines for dyslexic people

Further advice is available from the Student Disability Service.

How do I protect my own work

Copyright protection is automatic as soon as you create an original work of any kind. You are not required to official register copyright, but you may find it useful to take steps to provide evidence that you are the creator of the work. A useful step to take when publishing copyright material is to mark it with the international copyright symbol © followed by your name and the year of creation. You might consider putting a similar mark on the material on your blog or website, if you have one.

A correctly worded notice may also deter infringement, as it gives notice that the work may be protected under copyright law. Displaying a notice shows that you have an awareness of copyright, and that you take infringements of your work seriously. You could also watermark material such as documents, photographs and images.

How much can I copy from a copyright work?

There is no exact percentage of the 'limited' amount you can copy under fair dealing exceptions such as non-commercial research and private study, 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
  • up to 10% of a book 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 or pamphlet
  • one separate illustration or map up to A4 size
  • short excerpts from musical works (not whole works or movements). No copying is allowed for performance purposes

Is it ok to photograph a chapter of a book on my smartphone or tablet as opposed to photocopying?

Yes, as long as it is for your own non-commercial research or private study. There are no restrictions on changing the format of the copyright work provided the copying is fair. You must not make a copy and then send it to other individuals.

How much can I photograph/copy from a book or journal for my own personal use?

The amounts that can be copied under UK copyright law are not strictly defined. However, 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 10% of any given work whichever is the greater

Learn more about the UK copyright exception for research and private study at

Further Resources

Academic Services - Plagiarism

University Policy on Student Intellectual Property Rights

OER Service


This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. For further information please contact: 

Open Education Resources Service

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Scholarly Communications Team

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  • You can book a one-to one video consultation with an expert from our team. If you want to find out more about open access (journals, funding, policies etc ), Copyright & Intellectual Property, General publishing activities (request an ISBN or DOI), or research metrics (using Web Of Science or Scopus) please contact our team via email to book a session at a time that suits you.

Information on this page has been adapted from Copyright Guidance at The University of Manchester, CC BY-NC