Copyright for students

1280px-Browne,_Henriette_-_A_Girl_Writing;_The_Pet_Goldfinch_-_Google_Art_Project- cropYou are usually allowed to use copyright works in your research outputs, including your PhD thesis, under certain conditions. You must ensure any work is properly cited, and that you have only used a reasonable amount of the work. The usual fair dealing questions apply to research just as they do to teaching and student works. Find out more here.

For educational purposes, students need to be able to engage with works that are protected by copyright. Imagine trying to write an essay on a poem without being able to quote that poem, or presenting in art history without being able to use images of the artworks you are discussing. In order to use those works however you must fulfil several conditions:

  • you must engage in some way with the work by commenting, criticising or reviewing it, directly or thematically
  • you must cite the work
  • you must only use a reasonable amount of the work (limited to the necessary amount to make your point and without harming the sale of the original)

 If you are still unsure, please contact:



Some works may be in the public domain, available under a Creative Commons licence, or licensed to the University for students to use. If you are trying to find an image to use in a presentation, why not try the library catalogue? Alternatively, you might want to use one of these Creative Commons databases to see if you can find what you’re looking for.



The Main Library is equipped with a number of scanners and photocopiers which you are able to use to make copies for private study. You are permitted to scan or copy:

  • up to 5% of any one volume or
  • up to one full journal article from a journal issue or
  • up to one full chapter of a book

 Copyright Ownership­­ in Your Work

As the author of your work, you own the copyright. What this means in practice is that no one else can reproduce your work in its entirety, profit from it, or claim it as their own without your permission.  Be careful when posting your work online as you may grant the website a permission to use it. You might want to read the website’s terms before you upload anything.

For more information on works the University owns, please see University of Birmingham Admission and Registration Regulations 5.4.


There are exceptions to UK Copyright law designed to permit copying for the purposes of creating accessible documents that are compatible with assistive technologies. The Digitisation Service will obtain alternative format versions of content held by the Library on behalf of students or staff members with a Reasonable Adjustment Plan (RAP), or similar, in place.  If you don’t have an RAP in place, please contact the Student Disability Service in the first instance.

Please contact with details of the texts and the formats you require as soon as possible.  If your module(s) have ResourceLists please provide us with a link to those too. We will then discuss your needs with you.


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