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Copyright is not infringed by a teacher or student if they use copyright materials to give or receive instruction and the copying is used to illustrate a point about the subject being taught. However, this legal exception only applies under the following conditions:

  • The purpose of the use is non-commercial
  • Where practical, there should be sufficient acknowledgement of authorship of the work
  • The use of the material is fair

There is no legal definition of what is considered fair. <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/375951/Education_and_Teaching.pdf">According to the UK government</a>: ‘minor uses, such as displaying a few lines of poetry on an interactive whiteboard, will be permitted, but uses which would undermine sales of teaching materials will still need a licence’. 

If you would like to include the scan of an article, you may be able to do this under Queen Mary’s licence with the Copyright Licencing Agency. More information about what you can do under this licence can be found here.


Before re-using any content from websites, you must check the copyright and licensing position. License information could be in the website's "terms and conditions" or "legal notices" - often in a footer to the web page. If there is no information, you must assume that you need permission from the copyright owner. If it has a Creative Commons licence then you may use it as long as you stay within the licence terms. The same is true if it has an equivalent or similar licence.

The Introduction to Copyright module on QMplus has a list of resources containing images that can be re-used freely.


The safest way to use e-resources in your module is by linking to the resources. However, there are e-resources covered by our Copyright Licencing Agency Licence. You can check if a particular resource is covered using the check permissions tool - E-resources will have “digital” under “publication form.” Please note that this would be subject to the same rules as scans from print copies given above. Therefore, the same limits apply and the article must contain a cover sheet and be reported to the Library. Also, access must be restricted to students on the course and overseas campus-based students would not be covered.


Queen Mary has a licence with the Educational Recording Agency (ERA). The licence allows staff to make recordings of TV and radio programmes from ERA’s broadcaster members for educational use. It is important to note that recordings made under the ERA licence can only be made available to students inside the UK.


Copyright generally lasts for the lifetime of the author or artist plus 70 years. To put this in perspective: The published works of an author who died in 1950 would come out of copyright in January 2021. Since it is calculated from the end of the calendar year in which the author died, works always come out of copyright on the first of January. Different rules apply to different media, for example a musical recording remains in copyright for 70 years from its release date.  The rules for unpublished material are also different. There is a fixed date of the end of 2039 when a very large amount of older unpublished works comes out of copyright.


You may wish to include quotations from other people's work in your PhD. You must exercise caution to avoid the risk of copyright infringement. The starting point is that you need permission to reuse someone else's work. By obtaining permission, you remove any risk. Be sure to retain your email correspondence as evidence that you have permission.

A possible alternative to seeking permission: Modest quotations from the work of others are likely to be covered by the copyright exception for Criticism, Review and Quotation in Section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). Your reuse of the material needs to pass the "fair dealing" test required by the exception. There is no legal definition of "fair dealing" but these pointers may be helpful:

  • Keep each quotation as brief as possible.
  • Avoid anything which might damage the interests of the copyright owner.
  • Ensure you acknowledge authors and sources correctly.
  • Take extra care when reproducing images. This is less likely to be covered by an exception and more likely to pose copyright issues.
  • It is always safer to seek permission from the copyright owner rather than rely upon an exception.

Other people's material included in your thesis becomes a more pressing issue at the point when you are required to submit the electronic version (e-thesis) to be uploaded on QMRO, QMUL’s open access repository. Once on QMRO it is publically accessible. The size of the audience is a significant factor in copyright risk. It is sometimes necessary to redact (remove) third party material at that stage or to embargo publication on QMRO for copyright reasons.

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