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What is copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property right which gives protection to the owner of the rights to an original work. This means that individuals who want to reproduce the original work of others may need to seek permission to do so.  A good overview of copyright is available on Copyright Licensing Agency website.

Copyright automatically exists when original expressions of ideas are recorded.

Copyright covers the following types of work:

  • original literary works such as novels or poems, tables or lists and computer programmes
  • original dramatic works such as dance or mime
  • original musical works
  • artistic works such as paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures
  • sound recordings
  • films
  • broadcasts
  • typographical arrangements (ie the layout or actual appearance) of published editions.

The purpose of copyright is to enable creators to gain both recognition and potentially economic reward for their efforts, thus encouraging future creativity and the development of new material which ultimately benefits us all. Copyright material is usually the result of creative skill, significant labour and/or investment; without protection it would often be very easy for others to exploit such material without paying the creator.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure copyright compliance?

Responsibility for any infringement of copyright rests with the person making the copy.

Although the University has a responsibility to ensure that staff and students are aware of copyright and comply with the law, it remains the responsibility of the person making the copy to ensure they do not infringe copyright. 

Copyright generally exists for a period of 70 years following the death of the work’s author. If the work has several authors, the period of protection will last for 70 years following the death of the last surviving creator. There are some exceptions to the 70 year rule - please contact for advice.

What is 'fair dealing'?

In certain circumstances, some works may be used if that use is considered to be 'fair dealing'. There is no strict definition of what this means but it has been interpreted by the courts on a number of occasions by looking at the economic impact of the use on the rights holder. Where the economic impact is not significant, the use may count as fair dealing.

What is Public Domain?

The term ‘public domain’ refers to works which are not protected by copyright. These works are owned by public, rather than an individual creator or company, and can be freely used in any medium or format without having to obtain permission from anybody to do so.

Materials most commonly arrive in the public domain because the copyright on the work has expired, or the creator has deliberately placed it within the public domain upon creation.

Public Domain DOES NOT mean that anything on an open web site can be copied. Web site content is subject to copyright. 

The creator of a work usually owns the copyright of that work. However, like any form of property, copyright can be bought, sold, inherited or leased.

Who is the rights holder for work created by University students and employees?

The University recognises that students generally own the intellectual property right (IPR) they create as part of their studies unless sponsored (internally or externally) or in a collaboration or other third party contract, or employed (excludes student ambassadors) in which case they will be treated equally under this policy as for staff and be expected to assign their IPR to the University.

For students and University staff registered as postgraduate research students, the IPR is invested in the student, unless the student wishes it assigned to the University.

Unless there are specific agreements to the contrary, the University would normally be regarded as owning all intellectual property generated by Staff during the course of their employment, or if unpaid, during their work period with the University.

For full details please see the University of Cumbria Intellectual Property Policy

Can I include images in my work using 'fair dealing' exceptions?

Yes, as long as they are being used for one of the following safe purposes:

  • research and private study of a non-commercial nature
  • quotation/criticism and review
  • illustration for instruction

It is essential to give a full acknowledgement or attribution of the source of any material used.

Can I copy maps?

Ordnance Survey usually allow the copying of an area of map roughly equivalent to A4 size. Ordnance Survey are very strict in regards to copyright and we advise seeking permission before making copies. Contact Ordnance Survey directly to seek permission.

Non-OS maps are considered artistic works, so fair dealing copyright exceptions will apply.

When using Digimap or Google Maps, always check their terms and conditions to ensure copyright compliance.

What is Crown copyright?

Copyright in material produced by a British government department belongs to the Crown. The Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) can provide more information about this.

Do I need to register my copyright?

No, there is no need to apply for or register copyright. When you create a new work you automatically own the copyright in it (unless you created the work for your employer). You may choose to add a copyright symbol (©) to your work, but there is no specific need to do so.

Note that copyright protects works, not ideas.

Can I use an item if the rights holder is unknown?

These items are called orphan works, and they may be used for educational purposes if evidence of due diligence to trace the rights holder can be provided. Information regarding due diligence is available from the Intellectual Property Office. The lawful rights holder is entitled to request all material from their work be removed; this may happen at any time and you would be obliged to follow their instructions.

What happens if there is more than one author/creator?

Where two or more people have created a single work protected by copyright and the contribution of each author is not distinct from that of the other(s), those people are generally joint authors and therefore joint first owners of copyright. For example, a computer program created by a team of programmers.

Where individual contributions are distinct or separate, each person would be the author of the part they created. For example, where the music of a song is written by one individual and the lyrics by another, each author owns the copyright of the part work they created. This means that it would only be necessary to obtain the consent of the lyricist to use the lyrics without the music. The permission of both authors will be required if the song (that is, the music and lyrics together) is to be recorded or performed.



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