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Copyright and licences

Birkbeck, its staff and students are subject to the laws of copyright and responsibility for copyright infringement rests with the person making the copy. Get the information you need here, so you can legally copy and share material for studying, research and teaching. 

If you are unsure and need further information or advice, read the copyright law advice provided by JISC, advice from Learning On Screen (BUFVC), see UK Copyright Education and Training Resources via Association for Learning Technology Copyright & Online Learning Special Interest Group, or 

If you intend to use video, audio or images for promotional or public engagement uses, we recommend that you contact the copyright owners individually to seek their permission.

Disclaimer: While every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, Birkbeck is not liable for any errors or omissions. Copyright is a complex area and there are many issues and exceptions that cannot be covered in this brief guide. 

Copyright law 

The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 give automatic legal protection to creators of works, to prevent exploitation and to protect their moral rights. These Acts also state what the public, employees and libraries can copy from copyrighted works. 

studying and research  

  • General materials: you can copy materials for the purposes of private study or research for non-commercial purposes. There are no clear limits, but '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 and review: you can copy parts of a work for the purposes of criticism, but sufficient acknowledgement must be given.
  • Music: you can make copies of short excerpts of music for study only - not performance - but copying whole movements or whole works is illegal without the permission of the copyright owner. For more information, see the Music Publishers Association or Performing Rights Society.
  • Theses: a thesis is considered an unpublished work that is equivalent to an examination, so you can include photographs and other copyright works. If the thesis is subsequently published, permission to include copyright material must be obtained. 


  • Book chapters and journal articles: you can make multiple photocopies of a journal article or a book chapter for teaching purposes (i.e. one for each member of the class). 
  • Digital resources: multiple copying from electronic journals will depend on individual licence agreements with the Library - check with the publisher’s website or the Library before copying, or .
  • It is illegal to provide your students with copies from ejournals that Birkbeck does not subscribe to. 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.
  • Exams: you can copy material for exams - i.e. setting questions or communicating questions to candidates - within fair dealing limits. Subsequent publication or distribution of past papers containing extracts of copyright material is permitted only if permission is explicitly obtained. 
  • Music: you can make copies of short excerpts of music for study only - not performance - but copying whole movements or whole works is illegal without the prior permission of the copyright owner. For more information, see the Music Publishers Association or Performing Rights Society
  • 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 can 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. Or you can use Box of Broadcasts (BoB) National to provide access to broadcast materials in your Moodle module.
  • Scanning: Birkbeck's Higher Education Licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) allows you to scan published material within clearly defined limits, but access to the material must be limited to students on a specified course of study and full records kept of what has been scanned.  We recommend you use the instead to meet the licence requirements and the accessibility features provided as standard.

Visual impairments 

Licences held by the college