Copyright · ECRAG meeting summary

Copyright for researchers: what you can and can’t copy

After a not so sunny summer, we welcomed ECRAG-ers back to the last meeting of the academic year. Our ice-breaker question to get us started was based on something very close to our hearts: food (we always put on a good spread at our meetings!): if you were only aloud to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Unsurprisingly chocolate topped the list for a lot of people but we also had some practical answers like nutritionally rich space food or potatoes (you can do so much with them) and some more bizarre favourites like cray fish and watermelon.

The theme for the session was copyright, a topic that I would have groaned at as an undergraduate but is really relevant for research dissemination and teaching. Can you use images from google? Can you show a students a clip from you tube in a lecture? We invited Steve Leigh, Copyright and Licensing Advisor, to tell us more…

Whether we like it or not, copyright affects us all from the point of view of ownership of our research and reproducing and sharing other peoples’ work. Are you aware that, by default, the author owns the copyright if they are a student but the University owns the output from staff?

As well as copyright laws the University has its own contractual obligations, particularly those related to the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA).

Copyright deals with the expression of an idea not the concept itself. The main players when it comes to copyright are:

  • Creator: want recognition and may affect income
  • Publisher: want profit on an investment
  • Society: want unrestricted, or low cost access to circulation of knowledge

Copyright laws are constantly changing and were previously very outdated. The key elements of the most recently updated laws are:

  1. Illustration for instruction

This is mostly related to teaching whereby material is used to facilitate teaching. The new law allows use of whiteboards and for students to use laptops to make notes. Before, you weren’t technically aloud to copy a poem out onto a whiteboard!

  1. Text and data mining

This is not legal provided you have legitimate access to the content and it will be used for non-commercial research. The quotation exception allows exact text to be copied as a quote.

  1. Fair dealings

This is a defence law that permits use of “fair” amounts. “Fair” is defined by qualitative and quantitative judgments. For example a small amount of important information (like revealing the murderer in a crime novel) can be more detrimental that copying a large amount of text (like the first chapter of a crime novel).

For non-commercial research, a fair amount might be considered as: one chapter of a book or a single paper from a journal; one paper from conference proceedings; or 5% of material.

For criticism and review or quotations, a fair amount might be considered as: a single extract of up to 400 words or serval extracts of up to 300 words but totalling no more than 800 words together.

Specifically for teaching: CLA HE Licence

CLA HE Licence covers staff but not students. However, if a student is paid to teach, therefore employed by the University, they will be covered (PhD students make sure you get paid!).

The limits for copying are: 1 chapter/ 1 paper

1 short story/ poem of no more than 10 pages

OR 5% of the material, if that is greater

Be aware that if you want to copy or scan material for teaching you need to report it, see guidance on the intranet:

Copyright is sometimes a grey area and importantly shouldn’t cause you to sacrifice quality of teaching or research for fear of copyright infringement. If you have any queries don’t be afraid to ask.  Steve Leigh:

See you at the next meeting in October where we have a guest speaker from Warwick University talking about involving lay people in research, should be a good one…

Grace Turner


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