Copyright for students
During your studies you'll want to copy and reproduce the works of others to show your work and assist your learning, so it's important to know what you can and can’t do.
Accessible copies for accessibility support students
An area of the law changed in June 2014 to allow greater flexibility in copying works for accessibility purposes. Copies can now be made if a disability "prevents the person from enjoying the work to the same degree as a person who does not have that disability." There are some conditions: the copy must be for the personal use of the disabled person, and there must not be an accessible copy already commercially available.
For further details, please see our Accessibility Support pages.
What is protected by copyright?
Copyright is an automatic right that gives the owner of a work exclusive rights to copy and distribute that work, and to make adaptations of it. Copyright applies to original works that are published or unpublished. Original means that the creator has contributed their own ideas or skills to the creation of the material. Copyright does not protect ideas or thoughts; they must be recorded or ‘fixed’ in some way.
It is important to recognise that copyright applies to your own works. You own the copyright for any original work that you produce during your studies, such as an essay or portfolio. If someone wanted to use your work, they may need to seek your permission first.
How much can I copy?
There is an exception to UK copyright law that allows individuals to copy works for their own research and private study. This exception is subject to fair dealing. Fair dealing is a legal term that has no statutory definition but asks individuals to consider what would be a fair and honest amount to copy. Usually it would be fair to copy 1 journal article, 1 book chapter, or about 5% of a work.
Can I copy a journal article or book chapter in the Library and study it later?
Yes, you can make single, limited copies of protected works for private study and non-commercial research. You could make a print or electronic copy. You could take photographs of the work on your smartphone or device. There are no restrictions on the format of your copying so long as the copy you make is within fair dealing limits.
Can I share copies I make with friends?
No, you must not share copies you make with anyone. Just because you have access to a work, it does not mean that you can copy and distribute the work, this would be copyright infringement. Instead of sharing copies you make with friends, you could share links or citations, so they can make single copies for themselves.
Can I copy materials from the Internet?
Copyright exists for web-based materials in the same way as other published materials. If you are going to use and copy online materials, you will still need to cite and reference the source. Before copying any web-based material, you should check for any copyright statement, terms and conditions, or licence attached to the website.
Can I reuse teaching materials?
Teaching staff will often share their lecture slides and seminar handouts on Moodle for you to use. In general, most of the material is owned by York St John University and copyright applies to these materials. You are encouraged to use these materials to support your learning, but you do not have permission to make these resources available to others. If you use teaching materials in your work and assignments you will need to cite and reference them.
Where can I find copyright-free resources to use in my work?
Whilst there are exceptions that allow you to use limited amounts of copyrighted materials in your work and assignments, when using resources such as images and music we recommend using resources that are copyright-free or copyright-cleared. Often resources are licenced under open licences, such as Creative Commons licences, which allow for the reuse of resources so long as they are properly cited and referenced.
What is the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement?
Plagiarism is when you reproduce the work of others without properly citing or acknowledging the source, effectively claiming ownership of a work that isn’t yours. Copyright infringement is when you reuse someone’s work without permission, a licence or exception, even though it may have been cited properly. Plagiarism is a serious academic misconduct, whilst copyright infringement is breaking the law and could result in legal action. Plagiarism and copyright infringement can overlap if the work is reproduced without permission and without acknowledging the source.
How do I copyright protect my own work?
Copyright is an automatic right and applies to original works that are published or unpublished, so there is no need to apply for or register copyright. Usually the copyright owner for works created by taught-course or research students during the course of their studies at York St John University is owned by the student who created the work, unless the University specifies otherwise.
For further information about your copyright and intellectual property rights as a student, please see the University's Intellectual Property Policy.