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Welcome to our Copyright Guide

Copyright is a property right intended to protect the rights of those who create works of various kinds. The basis of UK copyright law is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

The Act states that copyright is a property right and can lie in the following types of work:

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works
  • Sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programmes
  • The typographical arrangement of published editions

The owner of the copyright in a work has the exclusive right to:

  • Copy the work
  • Issue copies of the work to the public
  • Perform, show or play the work in public
  • Broadcast the work or include it in a cable programme service
  • Make an adaptation of the work or do any of the above in relation to an adaptation

The author, director or commissioner of the work, whether or not that person is the copyright owner, has the following rights:

  • To be identified as author or director
  • To object to derogatory treatment of the work
  • The right to privacy of certain photographs and films

If you have any questions about our copyright licenses please contact Colin Theakston, the University's Copyright Officer.

Durham University Library can provide guidance to members of the university on matters of Copyright and the copying of material for research, teaching and learning at the university.

In general, you CAN copy material IF: 

  • the material is 'out of copyright' (see the box below on copyright duration)
  • you are the copyright owner
  • you have a visual impairment
  • you have the permission of the copyright owner
  • you are copying within the accepted limits of 'fair dealing' for:
    • non-commercial research
    • non-commercial private study
    • criticism or review
    • reporting of current events
  • the University holds a licence for the type of copying you want to carry out. 

If in doubt - DON'T copy - seek advice. 

Copyright can be a complex subject so these pages are only intended to give simple advice on the topic. Please note that they are for guidance only and relate in the main to copying carried out by members of the University (staff and students). It is not intended that these (or linked pages) should provide definitive legal opinion on copyright.

Length of Copyright

Material Duration Licensing Body
Books and Journals 70 years Copyright Licensing Agency
Music 70 years

Music Publishers Association OR

Mechanical Copyright Protection Society - Performing Rights Society

Artistic works 70 years Design and Artists Copyright Society
Films 70 years -
Maps 50 years Ordnance Survey
Newspapers 70 years Newspaper Licensing Agency
UK Official Pubs 50 years Office of Public Sector Information
Broadcasts 50 years Education Recording Agency
Unpublished works 70 years -

NB: The terms above only begin upon the death of the copyright owner.

Copyright Officer

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Colin Theakston
Library and Collections | Durham University | Bill Bryson Library | Stockton Road | Durham | DH1 3LY
+44(0)191 334 2970

Copyright Tutorial

If you are looking for more information on this subject then click on the link below which will take you to an online interactive tutorial on best practise in Copyright & Plagiarism.

Copyright and Plagiarism in the academic context

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