Copyright and permissions

In the UK intellectual property, copyright, designs and patents are protected by the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All information, whether in print or electronic form, is the intellectual property and copyright of a person or an organisation. Copying should always take place within the provisions and limitations of the Act or the local license under which you are working; anything else is an infringement of the Act.

Following changes made to copyright legislation in 2014, it is now possible to make a print or digital copy of any copyrighted item provided the amount copied is fair and justifiable. Non-commercial copying includes copying for:

Research and private study

The law permits copying of a “reasonable” proportion of text, dramatic and musical works sound recordings, films and broadcasts for non-commercial research and private study. This is generally referred to as “fair dealing”. In practice, a “reasonable” proportion includes:

  • Making a single copy of a published work
  • Copying up to 5% of a published work
  • Copying one article from an issue of a periodical
  • Making a single copy of the whole of an unpublished work unless prohibited by the rights holder

There should a sufficient acknowledgement of the source to allow it to be identified. The copy may not be reproduced, sold or shared online. The legislation makes new provision for several other types of non-commercial copying that are recognised exceptions to the legislation. Notably the exception for people with physical and mental disabilities:

People with disabilities

  • People with disabilities may make an accessible copy in any format, provided it is not already commercially available
  • The definition of disabled includes anyone with a physical or mental disability not just those with visual impairment
  • Educational establishments and not-for-profit organisations can make copies of copyright materials in accessible formats on behalf of people with disabilities

Commercial copying

If the intended purpose of copying does not fall within the exceptions to the legislation then it is probable that the intended purpose would be defined as ‘commercial’ in which case it will be  necessary to:

  • Check whether your organisation has a copyright license that allows copying for commercial purposes and what is allowed within the terms of the license. (See section below on Copyright licenses for which license relevant for your organisation)

If the terms of the license do not cover the intended purpose for copying then it will be necessary to:

  • Request permission from copyright holder to make a copy or copies

Requesting permission to copy/use copyright material

If you are in any doubt on whether your intended use infringes copyright, then it is better to seek permission from the copyright holder rather than risk facing legal charges, fines or in extreme cases; imprisonment. Guidance on how to seek permission is provided by:

The Intellectual Property Office: Using someone else’s intellectual property 

The UK Copyright Service: Fact sheet P-13 Obtaining permission to use copyright material

N.B. Although factsheet P-13 was last updated in 2004, the steps outlined still apply but should be read in conjunction with the current LACA guidance

NHS License

Different licenses apply across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. See the individual licenses for guidance on what you can or cannot do.

Contact your local healthcare librarian if you need further advice or interpretation of the terms of the license.

Higher education (HE)

The CLA issues licenses for different levels of educational establishment including HE institutions. See:

Contact your university librarian/information professional if you need further advice or interpretation of the license.

Crown Copyright

Licensing for the use and re-use of public sector information is outlined in the:


UK Government Licensing Framework (

As part of this Framework, the Open Government License allows you to:

  • copy, publish, distribute and transmit the information
  • adapt the information
  • exploit the information commercially and non-commercially for example, by combining it with other information, or by including it in your own product or application.

This is provided that the information is accurately reproduced, is not used in a misleading context and the source is adequately acknowledged.


See the Open Government License for the terms of the License (

For further information on the use of public sector information see:

 The Open Government License: guidance for users (


Newspapers are not covered by fair dealing or the licenses listed above. For more information on copyright and copying relating to newspapers and newspaper websites please look at the information provided by the Newspaper Licensing Agency.

Royal College of Occupational Therapist copyright

Please contact the RCOT Library if you have any queries on copying COT copyright material:

The Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance Guidance (LACA) (2015)

See The Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance Guidance (LACA) (2015) for a full list of exceptions that constitute non-commercial copying. NB: Under the new legislation educational and library exceptions to the law are no longer overridden by license or contract terms.​