Crown copyright covers material created by civil servants, ministers and government departments and agencies. This includes legislation, government codes of practice, Ordnance Survey mapping, government reports, official press releases, academic articles and many public records. For clarification of the duration of copyright please see the flowcharts for Crown copyright and non-Crown copyright. The National Archives has also produced a Permanent Secretary’s Guide to Copyright (PDF, 0.34MB).
Copyright can also come into Crown ownership by means of assignment or transfer of the copyright from the legal owner of the copyright to the Crown. Copyright in a work which has been assigned to the Crown lasts 70 years after the death of the person who created it.
The default licence for most Crown copyright and Crown database right information is the Open Government Licence.
As well as owning copyright works yourself, you may wish to make use of someone else’s copyright protected works. There are certain very specific situations where you may be permitted to do so without seeking permission from the owner. These can be found in the copyright sections of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended).
Non-commercial research and private study
You are allowed to copy limited extracts of works when the use is non-commercial research or private study, but you must be genuinely studying (like you would if you were taking a college course). Such use is only permitted when it is ‘fair dealing’ and copying the whole work would not generally be considered fair dealing.
The purpose of this exception is to allow students and researchers to make limited copies of all types of copyright works for non-commercial research or private study. In assessing whether your use of the work is permitted or not you must assess if there is any financial impact on the copyright owner because of your use. Where the impact is not significant, the use may be acceptable.
If your use is for non-commercial research you must ensure that the work you reproduce is supported by a sufficient acknowledgement.
Text and data mining for non-commercial research
Text and data mining is the use of automated analytical techniques to analyse text and data for patterns, trends and other useful information. Text and data mining usually requires copying of the work to be analysed.
An exception to copyright exists which allows researchers to make copies of any copyright material for the purpose of computational analysis if they already have the right to read the work (that is, they have ‘lawful access’ to the work). This exception only permits the making of copies for the purpose of text and data mining for non-commercial research. Researchers will still have to buy subscriptions to access material; this could be from many sources including academic publishers.
Publishers and content providers will be able to apply reasonable measures to maintain their network security or stability but these measures should not prevent or unreasonably restrict researcher’s ability to text and data mine. Contract terms that stop researchers making copies to carry out text and data mining will be unenforceable.
Criticism, review and reporting current events
Fair dealing for criticism, review or quotation is allowed for any type of copyright work. Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of reporting current events is allowed for any type of copyright work other than a photograph. In each of these cases, a sufficient acknowledgement will be required.
As stated, a photograph cannot be reproduced for the purpose of reporting current events. The intention of the law is to prevent newspapers or magazines reproducing photographs for reporting current events which have appeared in competitor’s publications.
Several exceptions allow copyright works to be used for educational purposes, such as:
- the copying of works in any medium as long as the use is solely to illustrate a point, it is not done for commercial purposes, it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement, and the use is fair dealing. This means minor uses, such as displaying a few lines of poetry on an interactive whiteboard, are permitted, but uses which would undermine sales of teaching materials are not
- performing, playing or showing copyright works in a school, university or other educational establishment for educational purposes. However, it only applies if the audience is limited to teachers, pupils and others directly connected with the activities of the establishment. It will not generally apply if parents are in the audience. Examples of this are showing a video for English or drama lessons and the teaching of music. It is unlikely to include the playing of a video during a wet playtime purely to amuse the children
- recording a TV programme or radio broadcast for non-commercial educational purposes in an educational establishment, provided there is no licensing scheme in place. Generally a licence will be required from the Educational Recording Agency
- making copies by using a photocopier, or similar device on behalf of an educational establishment for the purpose of non-commercial instruction, provided that there is no licensing scheme in place. Generally a licence will be required from the Copyright Licensing Agency
Helping disabled people
There are 2 exceptions to copyright for the benefit of disabled people. These exceptions cover you if you have a physical or mental impairment which prevents you from accessing copyright protected materials.
One exception allows you, or someone acting on your behalf, to make a copy of a lawfully obtained copyright work if you make it in a format that helps you access the material. For example, if you buy a book from a shop then make a Braille copy to help with a visual impairment then you are not infringing the copyright in the book.
The second exception permits educational establishments and charity organisations to make, communicate, make available, distribute and lend accessible format-copies of protected works on behalf of disabled people. The exception permits acts such as:
- making braille, audio or large-print copies of books, newspapers or magazines for visually-impaired people
- adding audio-description to films or broadcasts for visually-impaired people
- making sub-titled films or broadcasts for deaf or hard of hearing people
- making accessible copies of books, newspapers or magazines for dyslexic people
Certain legal requirements must be met in order for the disability exceptions to be relied upon when making or dealing with an accessible copy. These requirements include:
- accessible copies of copyright protected works can be made only from lawfully-accessed copies
- an accessible copy can only be made by a disabled person or an authorised body acting on their behalf
- the copy can only be made for the personal use of a disabled person. Accessible copies cannot be made, communicated, made available, distributed or lent to a person that is not a disabled person under these exceptions
- bodies that make, communicate, make available, distribute and lend accessible copies must fulfil the definition of an “authorised body” outlined in Section 31F CDPA
- an accessible copy must only change a copyright work to the extent that is necessary to convert it to an accessible format
- the making, communicating, making available, distributing or lending of an accessible copy by an authorised body must be done on a non-profit basis. This means that, for example, an authorised body must not make a profit when they make and distribute an accessible copy of a book
Further information on exceptions to copyright law for disabled people and changes to copyright law due to the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty.
A recording of a broadcast can be made in domestic premises for private and domestic use to enable it to be viewed or listened to at a more convenient time.
The making of a recording of a broadcast for purposes other than to time-shift a programme for you or your family is likely to be illegal.
Parody, caricature and pastiche
There is an exception to copyright that permits people to use limited amounts of copyright material without the owner’s permission for the purpose of parody, caricature or pastiche.
For example a comedian may use a few lines from a film or song for a parody sketch; a cartoonist may reference a well known artwork or illustration for a caricature; an artist may use small fragments from a range of films to compose a larger pastiche artwork.
It is important to understand, however, that this exception only permits use for the purposes of caricature, parody, or pastiche to the extent that it is fair dealing.
In relation to certain exceptions, if you are making use of that exception to copy someone else’s work it is necessary for you to sufficiently acknowledge their work. For example, where you have copied all or a substantial part of a work for the purposes of criticism or review, or where the use was for the purposes of news reporting.
However such acknowledgement is not required where it is impossible for reasons of practicality.
Certain exceptions only apply if the use of the work is a ‘fair dealing’. For example, the exceptions relating to research and private study, criticism or review, or news reporting.
‘Fair dealing’ is a legal term used to establish whether a use of copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright. There is no statutory definition of fair dealing – it will always be a matter of fact, degree and impression in each case. The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work?
Factors that have been identified by the courts as relevant in determining whether a particular dealing with a work is fair include:
- does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it, causing the owner to lose revenue, then it is not likely to be fair
- is the amount of the work taken reasonable and appropriate? Was it necessary to use the amount that was taken? Usually only part of a work may be used
The relative importance of any one factor will vary according to the case in hand and the type of dealing in question.
Technological protection measures
It is important to be aware that media, such as DVDs and e-books, are often protected by Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) (also known as copy protection measures or DRM) which prevent unauthorised access or copying.
TPMs can play an important role in enabling copyright owners to offer content to consumers in different ways, as well as preventing piracy. EU and UK law protects the right of copyright owners to use TPMs to protect their works, and circumvention of such technology is illegal.
Further guidance on copyright exceptions, including changes to the law made in 2014, is available.
Copyright: detailed information
The content of this site relates only to the courts in England & Wales. Other countries and jurisdiction have other rules.
The contents of this website do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only. If you require specific legal advice you should contact a specialist lawyer.
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