Information Services

Copyright FAQs

The Question-Answer pairs below should address some of the most common questions you may have.

How can I use other people’s work without infringing copyright?

Under “fair dealing”, you may use portions of other people's works for the purposes of non-commercial research or study, criticism or review or the reporting of current events. If your use of these materials goes beyond the scope of fair dealing, then you should seek permission from the copyright holder. Note that fair dealing does not extend to the use of materials in teaching. To include copies of texts in course packs you should contact the library’s E-Reserve service or the Resource List service.

How can I use scanned copyrighted materials in teaching?

You can use the Library’s E-Reserve service or the Resource List service to request copies of texts to be used as readings for specific courses. The library will ensure that you receive copyright-cleared copies of texts for use of students on those courses only. The University holds a number of licences to allow copyrighted materials to be used for educational purposes. Please contact the Copyright Enquiries Service for more details.

Who owns the copyright in my work?

When a new work is created, copyright is held by the person who created it. If more than one person created the work (for example a journal article with multiple authors) then copyright will be held jointly between the authors. When work is created as a part of their employment, copyright normally resides with the employer. When a work is published, it is common for copyright to be transferred to the publisher. We recommend that authors seek to retain copyright of their work wherever possible, or sufficient rights to re-use the work for university purposes such as teaching and uploading into PURE. You can use the SPARC Author Addendum for this, or contact the Scholarly Communications Team for more information. If a work is created in the course of an individual’s duties as an employee, then copyright would normally be held by the employer.

How can I obtain permission to copy University of Edinburgh copyrighted material?

Please contact the creator of the work. If you are unable to trace the creator, please contact the Copyright Enquiries Service with details of the material you wish to reproduce and they will attempt to locate the creator.

How can I use the E-Reserve service?

There are a number of ways that staff and students can make use of the E-reserve service. Full information can be found on the E-reserve service website.

Can I make copies from a University of Edinburgh thesis?

Copyright in a University of Edinburgh thesis is retained by the author. The University makes most theses available to the public either in print or online. Copies of small portions of theses may be made under “fair dealing”. For more substantial copies, please contact the Scholarly Communications Team. Many theses are available to read on an Open Access basis via Edinburgh Research Archive.

How can I licence my work?

When you create a new work, you automatically own the copyright in it (unless you created the work for an employer). There is no need to apply for or register copyright. You may choose to add a copyright symbol (©) to your work, but there is no specific need to do so, copyright is automatic. Note that copyright protects works, not ideas.

For information on applying an open licence such as Creative Commons to your work, advice is provided by the Open Education Service.

What is “fair dealing”?

Fair dealing provides an exception to UK copyright law to allow you to reproduce work for the purposes of non-commercial research or study, criticism or review or the reporting of current events. Factors when deciding the "fairness" of the copying can include the quantity of the work taken, whether or not it was previously published, the motives of the infringer and what the consequences of the infringement on the original author's returns for the copyrighted work will be.

More information about Fair Dealing and UK copyright exceptions

How can I publish a work that contains third-party copyright?

If you wish to publish a work which contains significant parts of someone else’s work then you should seek permission to reproduce this. Your publishers should be able to advise you, but you can also contact the Scholarly Communications Team.

How do I contact a copyright-holder?

You can adapt the template below to contact a copyright-holder by email or by post. If you wish to reproduce a work for non-commercial, academic research purposes we advise that you highlight this in your communications. It is important to remember that a lack of response does not signify permission being granted.

Who owns the copyright of work created at the University of Edinburgh?

Authors normally retain copyright of academic works created at the University of Edinburgh, although it may be that copyright is assigned to a publisher when a work is published. We recommend that University of Edinburgh authors seek to retain their copyright by requesting to use the SPARC Author Addendum when publishing a work.

Further Resources

Copyright Enquiries Service

Edinburgh Research Archive

E-reserve Service

Intellectual Property Office Copyright FAQs

JISC Web2Rights Project

SPARC Author Addendum

Scholarly Communications Team

Contact details



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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.