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Referencing & Plagiarism: Copyright

Copyright Explained

Copyright automatically exists wherever an original idea is expressed in a physical format. This includes text, art, performance, sound recordings, music, film, broadcasts and typographical layouts. 

Copyright is an exclusive, legal right given to the originator of the work for a fixed number of years, and University of Suffolk is committed to protecting the rights of those within its community for the works they produce, and to the protection of rights of third parties whose work may be accessed or used by those within the University of Suffolk community.

This guide is designed to help you make the right decisions when producing work, to both protect your own work, and the work of others.

This section provides information and guidance to students on copyright law. Throughout your course of study you will want to access, resources, download content and reuse it for your assignments. Fortunately, copyright law recognises the need for you to do this, and makes provision under 'fair dealing' for non-commercial research and private study.  

If you have any questions, you should contact David Upson-dale, Research Repository and OA Compliance Manager.

Fair dealing relates to exceptions that can be made to using copyrighted information, but requires that you only copy 'as much of a work as is necessary for the purpose' and that copying 'must not impact on rights holders' legitimate ownership of their work'.

The 'fair dealing' section of UK copyright law permits you to copy extracts from sound recordings, films and broadcasts as well as literary, dramatic and musical works for private study or non-commercial research purposes.  All types of copyright are covered and acknowledgement of the source must be provided.  

Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that assists authors and creators who want to share their work, by providing free copyright licences and tools.

Creative Commons licences are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.

There are several different Creative Commons licenses with different permissions attached. For example, a CC BY license is very open and only requires that you credit the original creator, whereas a CC BY-NC license does not allow commercial use.

The law allows you to make copies of work to include in your assessments and exams. You must always ensure that you include appropriate acknowledgement, which will also ensure you avoid any potential risk of plagiarism.

This exception, however, does not permit you to make your work available online or in print. To do this, you must seek permission from the rights holder to reproduce their work in your publication.

Yes you can, as long as the copies are made for non-commercial purposes or private research. However, you can not then share those images with another person.
For non-commercial purposes, or private research, you can make copies up to:
  • one article in a single issue of a journal or set of conference proceedings, or a single law report
  • up to 10% of a book or a complete chapter, whichever is greater
  • a whole poem or short story from a collection, provided the item is not more than 10 pages
  • up to 10% (maximum of 20 pages) per short book (without chapters), report or pamphlet
  • one separate illustration or map up to A4 size
  • short excerpts from musical works (not whole works or movements). No copying is allowed for performance purposes
Even when you post things to social media you keep the copyright of whatever you have posted. However, when you do so you are agreeing to license your work to the hosting site for them to use as stated in their terms and conditions, and you are confirming that you hold the copyright for whatever you upload. So, before you upload anything to the internet, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube you should:
  • make sure that what you upload is yours - not someone elses. If you need to upload their work, you must seek permission, and be granted permission before you do it,
  • read the terms and conditions of the site. When you upload to some sites you are giving them permission to use your content for any purpose without consulting you.
  • only link to resources produced under Creative Commons licence, or that you have permission to link to,
  • check for any copyright information, do not assume there is no copyright, just because it isn't stated,
  • be aware that social media sites take no responsibility for any breach of copyright. You are responsible for anything you post.
All images you find on the internet are protected by copyright . However, it may be possible to copy images without infringing copyright if they are being used for one of the following safe purposes:
  • non-commercial purposes or private research
  • criticism and review

Copyright for Audio-Visual Material

You may be asked to include images or film in your assignments or projects. It is important to understand that, unless explicitly stated, any image or film you find or can access on the internet should be considered protected under copyright law.


What images can you use?

If you want to use images or film and plan on sharing your work outside of your course, you must be able to demonstrate that they are not protected under copyright law, are accessible through Creative Commons, or are owned by you.

For work only submitted as part of your course- NOT shared with outside parties, you can use images/film found on the internet through fair dealing.  However, you MUST provide an accurate attribution of the work as well as a reference. 

All students are expected to comply with copyright legislation, and could be sued for distributing third-party copyrighted materials.  


Royalty-free image and film resources




There are slightly different laws that apply to recorded music in comparison to printed music. Regardless of the format of music you intend to use, it is important to remember that, much like images and film, all content you encounter should be considered protected under copyright law unless explicitly stated otherwise. 

What music can you use?

Recorded music, including film, TV programmes and radio is copyrighted material. You should also make note that a single recording can involve multiple rights owners, due to the inclusion of music, lyrics, performance and recording production.

Under current copyright law, all types of copyrighted works can be copied for the sole purpose of illustration for instruction - so lecturers will be able to use extracts from films, sound recordings and broadcasts as well as text, music and artistic works to illustrate a teaching point.  

Students may include music (both recorded and printed) in their work through fair dealing, but are limited to what is required for the purpose- which must not have an impact on the rightsholder.

As with images, any resources used in this way must not made available to, or seen by, an audience of people not connected with the University, and sources must be properly acknowledged and referenced.


Royalty-free music resources