Copyright Guidelines for Birkbeck staff

This guide is a brief introduction designed to help staff working at the College.

What is copyright? | How long does copyright last? | Infringement of copyright | When can I copy? | How can I obtain permission to use copyright material? | Licences held by the College | FAQs about the new CLA licence for scanning copyright material | Other copyright issues | Helpful copyright sites | Disclaimer

What is copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property right, and copyright law is designed to protect the rights of writers, artists, musicians, photographers, publishers and other creators. Copyright exists in the following:

• original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, such as books, articles, web pages, drawings, photographs, databases and computer programmes

• sound recordings, films, videos, broadcasts, or cable programmes

• typographical arrangements of published editions

The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 give legal protection to creators of these works in order to prevent exploitation and to protect their moral rights. Creators do not need to apply for copyright protection in the UK – it is automatic. The Act also states the rights of members of the public, employees and libraries in terms of copying copyright works.

How long does copyright last?

  • Copyright generally exists in a work for a period of 70 years following the death of the creator.
  • If the work has been created by several people the period of protection will last for 70 years following the death of the last surviving author.
  • Broadcasts or cable programmes are protected for 50 years from the first recording or transmission.
  • Sound recordings  are protected for 70 years from the first recording or transmission NB this was extended from 50 years in Nov 2013.
  • Films are protected for 70 years from the death of the last survivor of the main parties involved in the production, although actors’ performance rights may also exist.
  • Copyright in the typographical arrangement of a literary work rests with the publisher for 25 years following the date of publication.

Infringement of copyright

The copyright owner has exclusive rights to:

  • copy their work
  • issue copies to the public
  • rent or lend the work
  • perform, show or play the work in public
  • broadcast the work
  • adapt the work

It would be unlawful for anyone else to do any of the above without permission of the copyright owner, within the protected period.

When can I copy?

The Copyright Designs and Patents Act does allow copying of copyright materials under certain circumstances:

Fair dealing

Copying must be for the purposes of private study or research for a non-commercial purpose. There are no clear limits but the amount of a published work which may be photocopied under fair dealing is often interpreted as:

    • no more than one chapter from a book
    • no more than one article from a journal issue
    • no more than one single case report from a law report or
    • no more than 10% of a given work, whichever is the greater

Criticism or review

You may copy parts of a work for the purposes or criticism, provided that sufficient acknowledgement is given.


You can copy material for examinations, by way of setting questions or communicating questions to the candidates as long as this is within fair dealing limits. Subsequent publication or distribution of past papers containing extracts of copyright material would be illegal unless permission was obtained.

Off air recording

You can make copies of most terrestrial TV and radio programmes for teaching purposes under the terms of the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) Licence held by the College. You may also record satellite or cable programmes at home for teaching or private study without the need for record keeping as they are not currently covered by any licensing agreements. For more information see under details of licences held by the College

Multiple copies for teaching and course packs

Under the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Licence, which the College holds, you can make multiple photocopies of a journal article or a book chapter for teaching purposes one for each member of the class. Multiple copying from electronic journals will depend on individual licence agreements with the College Library. It is advisable to check with the publisher’s web site or the Library before copying. For more information see under details of licences held by the College.


Under the College’s Newspaper Licensing Agency media access (NLA media access) Licence you can make multiple copies for teaching purposes of articles from 20 national papers. For more information see under details of licences held by the College.

Electronic copying and storage

The College has the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) photocopying and scanning licence for higher education. This allows the scanning of published material within clearly defined limits. Certain restrictions apply, and access to the material must be limited to students on a specified course of study. For further information about the CLA photocopying and scanning licence, see the frequently asked questions section below. For material that falls outside the scope of the CLA photocopying and scanning licence, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner before scanning in material and storing it electronically. Creators of web pages should be particularly careful that they do not use copyright pictures or text, even if they obtained them from the internet.

Copying with permission of the copyright holder

Copyright may be bought, sold or passed on by the owner when they die. Copyright owners may give permission to copy, but it is strongly recommended that you obtain and keep written permission. The author of a book or journal article may no longer own the copyright of the material they have written since they may have signed it over to a publisher. College authors may therefore wish to retain the copyright of their material, which will enable them or the College Library to make copies available electronically to students and other researchers free of charge (including via the College’s institutional repository) Publishers and creators of artistic works will generally expect payment either directly or via the Copyright Licensing Agency or the Design and Artists Copyright Society if you wish to use their works for purposes beyond those allowed under the Act. The External Relation Department's design team and Print Unit will ask you for a copy of the written permission to use copyright work before agreeing to design and print materials on your behalf.

How can I obtain permission to use copyright material?

If you want to use copyright material in a way which is not permitted under the exceptions described above or the licences held by the College, then you will usually need to approach the copyright owner and ask for a licence to cover the use you require. You will need to negotiate the terms and conditions, including the possible payment or royalty for the use, and possibly additional restrictions on use.

Details of licences held by the College

The 1988 Copyright Act allows for the establishment of licensing agencies which collect fees from licence holders for any copying beyond the provisions of the Act. The College pays for a range of licences designed mainly to support teaching and learning. These are held by the Director of Library and Media Services. If you use any of these licences it is important to become familiar with their main terms and conditions.

Copyright Licensing Agency(CLA Licence)

The College pays £8.05 per FTE to cover multiple photocopying of printed books and journals for teaching purposes. The licence also allows the scanning of published material within clearly defined limits and with certain restrictions. For further information about scanning under the CLA licence, see the frequently asked questions below.

Scanning: As only designated personnel may undertake this - please make use of the Library's Digitisation service.

Photocopying: Photocopying under the Licence is restricted to 10% OR one chapter of a book, one article from a periodical issue, one short story or poem not exceeding ten (10) pages in length (from an anthology of short stories or poems) or the entire report of a single case from a published report of judicial proceedings. Photocopies may be put together into a study pack for students.

Certain content is not covered by the Licence, please check the CLA’s website to ensure the copying you are doing is legal. Printed music, maps, bibles and some other printed material are not covered by the CLA Licence. The College has a licence from the Newspaper Licensing Agency meda access (NLA media access) which allows copying from most UK newspapers.

    Educational Recording Agency (ERA Licence)

    The College pays an annual sum to the ERA to cover any off air recording of terrestrial broadcasts for educational purposes. Open University programmes are covered by a separate licence (see below). Off air recordings may be made by members of the College at work or at home, and tapes may be used in class or catalogued and held for loan in the Library. All video and audio tapes used to record programmes off-air under the ERA Licence must be labelled with the date, time and title of the recording and the statement "This Recording is to be used only under the terms of the ERA Licence". Find information here about Bob National - the on demand TV and radio service for education.

    Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC)

    The College has a licence which provides unlimited cover throughout the year to show pre-recorded Video, DVD, Blu-ray or downloads distributed by MPLC affiliated producers for entertainment purposes on College premises.  The films shown must be a legal copy of the film in any format. No commercial advertisement may be made of the film title outside of the licensed premises and to no one other than the licensed group. There can be no direct charging for the event. The Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988 permits the showing of films for educational purposes under certain conditions.

    Newspaper Licensing Agency media access (NLA media access Licence)

    The College's NLA Licence enables photocopying of extracts from national newspapers for teaching purposes. Subject to certain terms & conditions, this includes paper copying (photocopying, faxing & printing), and digital copying (scanning, emailing & hosting on an intranet site). Furthermore, the licence also covers the projection of content by illumination onto a screen & inclusion in study literature. The licence does not include the Financial Times from 1st. July 2011 or the online versions of News International titles.

    Open University Licensed Off-Air Recording Scheme

    Off air recording of OU programmes is permissable under this Licence. It is important to keep records of all videos created or subsequently wiped. The Director of Library does an annual census and makes payments to the OU based on the number of recordings held by the College. Payments for OU videos held by the Library are recharged to the relevant School library materials allocation. Please note: With our subscription to Box of Broadcasts (BoB) National, Open University programmes are available and accessible via this service, so no new off air recordings should be made from October 2014 onwards.


    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the CLA licence for scanning copyright material

      I have been told that there is a licence which allows me to digitise published material.

      • Yes – but within restrictions and with limitations. A record must be kept of any scanning that is undertaken under the licence and only ‘designated persons’ can make digital copies. Designated persons are assigned by the College's Licence Co-ordinator who is Robert Atkinson, the Director of Library. The only designated persons in Birkbeck allowed to make digital copies under the Licence are based in the Library see the Digitisation Service page.

      What can I legitimately digitise under the licence?

      • Only ‘hard copy’ books and journals acquired and owned by the institution can be digitised. If a copy is not owned by the institution, it is possible to digitise material which has been obtained by the Library as a ‘copyright fee paid’ photocopy from the British Library Document Supply Centre.

      What other limitations are there?

        • The licence does not allow scanning of all copyright content. When you place digitisation requests via the Library we will check whether that material is covered.
        • Certain categories of work are not covered, for example, printed music, maps, newspapers, bibles and some other printed material.

      Other limitations are the same as for the CLA photocopying licence ie:

      Under the Licence, it is possible to digitise whichever is the greater of :

      • up to 10% or one chapter of a book
      • up to 10% or one article of a journal issue
      • up to 10% or one paper of one set of conference proceedings
      • up to 10% or one case of one report of judicial proceedings
      • up to 10% of an anthology of short stories or poems or one short story or one poem of not more than ten pages

      Can images be digitised under the Licence?

      • Yes. The Licence permits a digital copy to be prepared of a whole page visual image and the disembedding of a part page visual image. However, the material to be digitised must meet all other conditions of the Licence.

      What if there is a digital copy already available?

      • If we hold the material electronically [e-book or e-journal] we cannot scan from the hard copy and a link should be used to the e-version instead.

      What can I do with material from e-journals?

        • The CLA Licence we hold only permits the scanning of hard copy material. To refer your students to an article published in an e-journal we subscribe to, you must link to this rather than uploading the PDF - this is infringing our licence with the supplier. If you are not sure how to create a stable link to an article please consult your Subject Librarian.

      It is illegal to provide your students with PDFs from e-journals which Birkbeck does not subscribe to, and publishers use software to track unlicenced use of their material. If there is an article you need from a journal we don't hold we can usually source a copyright fee paid copy of this - please contact your Subject Librarian for more information.

      What restrictions apply to making the digitised material available?

      • The material must only be accessible to students on a specified module. This means that items cannot be made available directly from the library catalogue or via the College web site. Making material available through Moodle, or through another virtual learning environment, meets this requirement.

      What else do I need to do when scanning material?

      • The integrity of the original must be preserved which means that you should avoid any form of manipulation or adjustment to the digital copy. A copyright notice must be attached to each digital copy.

      How long can the material be held for?

      • The digitised copies should be deleted when all students have completed the course - and if the course of study is not likely to be repeated in a future teaching session.

      How do I find out more about MOODLE or the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE)?

      • Contact Peter Leffek, Teaching and Learning Technology Officer, in ITS on extension 6221 or email:

      You mentioned about record keeping?

      • The Director of Library Services, Robert Atkinson, is the Licence Co-ordinator for Birkbeck. He is responsible for overseeing record keeping in the College for the CLA photocopying and scanning licence.

      What else do I need to be aware of?

      • The CLA has worked with representatives of publishers and Universities UK, GuildHE and individual HEIs to publish a Good Practice Guide on creating coursepacks.
      • The CLA will be auditing selected institutions to check compliance with the terms of the licence including the use of virtual learning environments to make available scanned material to students.

      Interested in knowing more?

      • If you interested in having digital copies made under the Licence, please go to our digitisated readings and e-journal linking service webpage or contact your Subject Librarian for advice. If you wish to know more about the Licence, please contact the Director of Library Services, Robert Atkinson, on extension 6250 or email: . Guidelines on the CLA Licence are available on the CLA web site.


      Other copyright issues

      Computer software

      All software has one or more authors or creators who own the copyright in the software that they have written. Copyright applies to all software, whether it be commercial or free. The distribution and use of software is subject to a licence which specifies the terms of use. Members of the College should be aware of the CHEST Code of Conduct for the Use of Software and Datasets.

      Electronic databases, books, and journals

      Viewing, downloading, printing, and copying from electronic books, journals and databases are determined by Licence agreements signed by the College. Users must observe the specific terms and conditions for each service. Please note that it is not normally permissible under these licence agreements to download articles from electronic journals/databases and then make them available to your students (including through Moodle). Links to the Licences pertaining to some of the larger electronic resources held by the Library are accessible via the links below. Information about others can usually be found from the home page of the service.  Please consult our A-Z listing of the databases we subscribe to.

      Please contact your Subject librarian or Elizabeth E Charles, Assistant Director: E-Services and Systems (020 7631 6066) or if you have any queries about the licences held for electronic books, journals, or databases.


      If you wish to copy music which is still in copyright, whether by means of photocopying or otherwise, you may only do so with the prior permission of the copyright owner, with certain limited exceptions. Bona fide students or teachers may without application to the copyright owners make copies of short excerpts of musical works provided they are for study only (not performance), but copying whole movements or whole works is forbidden. For more information see the Music Publishers Association or Performing Rights Society web sites.


      A thesis is an unpublished work, and photographs and other copyright works may be included since it is considered to be the equivalent of an examination. If the thesis is subsequently published permission must be obtained to include copyright material.

      Visually impaired

      The Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002 allows a visually impaired person to make, or have made for them, an "accessible" copy of the whole work - for example: braille, audio, large print or electronic.

      Helpful copyright sites


      While every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in these web pages and in linked third party web sites, Birkbeck is not liable for any errors or omissions.

      Copyright is a complex area. There are many issues and exceptions that cannot be covered in a short guide. But please be careful, since academic institutions and individuals are not exempt from legal action.

      • Responsibility for infringement of copyright rests with the person making the copy, not with the providers of the equipment.
      • Buying or owning the original or a copy of a copyright work does not give you permission to use it how you wish.
      • Content on web sites, and other electronic information, is similarly protected and you will need to have been given permission to reuse it.

      The Director of Library Services, Robert Atkinson, (, tel 020 7631 6250 may be able to advise you.