SOAS University of London

Library Copyright Guidance: Reproduction of Library Material

Fair dealing for private study or research and SOAS's CLA licence (see Photocopying Library material) allow copies to be made of copyright-protected items subject to certain conditions, but do not authorise the reproduction of material in other works, such as publications, essays, theses or dissertations. This section looks at the situations in which copyright law allows extracts of material held by the Library to be copied and incorporated into something else.

Note that where a copy of a copyright-protected work:

  • Has been made by the user under fair dealing for private study or research; or
  • Has been produced by SOAS or another library for an interlibrary loan (see Interlibrary loans);

Any subsequent use of that copy must be consistent with the purpose of non-commercial private study or research that applied when the copy was made. This may rule out using the copy as source material for a publication for which a fee will be received (see Photocopying Library material). However, a user could copy separately from the original item under one of the conditions below.

(1) The material is out of copyright. "Out of copyright" items can be copied and reproduced in other works without restriction. See Summary of the duration of copyright for information on the terms of protection for common types of material.

(2) The amount reproduced is insubstantial. Copyright is not infringed if an insubstantial amount of a work is copied. However, "substantial" is not defined in the copyright legislation, and in the event of a dispute the courts will look at the quality or significance of what has been copied as well as the quantity. It is advisable to only rely on this exception for copying brief extracts, and to acknowledge the source of the material.

(3) The reproduction is covered by "fair dealing" for criticism or review. "Fair dealing" for criticism or review is an exception in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act which allows copyright-protected material to be copied without the permission of the copyright owner. It is similar to "fair dealing" for private study or research, but unlike that exception, it allows material to be copied and reproduced in a publication or other work, provided the following conditions are met:

  • Any copyright-protected material in any format (books and articles, sound recordings, music, films, free-standing photographs and drawings, etc) can be copied, provided the item has already been made available to the public. This covers not only works which have been published in the conventional sense, but also works which have been performed, exhibited, shown or played in public, made available through rental or lending, or made available through the Internet or an electronic retrieval system. It is unclear whether archives and manuscripts which are available for consultation in an archive repository that is open to the public (e.g. the Special Collections department in the SOAS Library) can be treated as having been "made available to the public".
  • The source of the material must be acknowledged. At a minimum, you should identify the author (if known) and the title; a normal bibliographic citation would be sufficient.
  • The copying and reproduction should genuinely be for the purpose of criticising or reviewing the material. This means that the item should be accompanied by or form part of some discussion or assessment of its value, significance, importance etc. "Criticism or review" can also include a criticism/discussion of the circumstances surrounding the item.
  • No more of the item should be used than is necessary for the purposes of criticism or review. There is no hard and fast limit, and what is considered to be "fair" will depend on the circumstances of the case: e.g. the courts held that it was "fair dealing" for about 10% of the film A Clockwork Orange to be broadcast in a television programme criticising the decision to withdraw it from circulation in the UK. In general, the greater the amount copied, the more likely the use will be seen as excessive and an infringement of copyright. However, it may be impossible to adequately critique or review certain works (e.g. photographs, drawings) without reproducing the entire work.

The Society of Authors has issued guidance on the amounts that it considers to be fair to copy from a literary work for the purposes of criticism or review Download the full document

  • A single extract of up to 400 words from a prose work.
  • A series of extracts (each no more than 300 words) up to a total of 800 words from a prose work.
  • Up to 40 lines or one-quarter of a poem (whichever is less).

Unless permission is obtained from the copyright owner, the quotation of "in copyright" material in academic publications will usually have to be done under either "fair dealing" for criticism or review, or on the basis that the amount used is insubstantial.

(4) The copying is permitted by "examination privilege". The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act includes provisions which allow copyright-protected material to be copied by teachers for the purpose of setting examination questions, and by students in order to respond to examination questions. "Examination" has been interpreted broadly to cover any type of summative assessment: coursework which counts towards the final grade, theses and dissertations, as well as written examinations. Any type of copyright-protected material may be copied, to any extent, except that musical works may not be copied reprographically for performance by examination candidates. The source of the copy must be acknowledged if practicable.

This exception allows students to copy extracts from works held in the Library for "examination" purposes, and to reproduce extracts in their coursework, theses, dissertations etc. However, "examination privilege" does not authorise any subsequent publication or distribution of the work. For example, if a student wants to publish their PhD thesis, they must either obtain permission from the copyright owners of the extracts, or ensure that the reproduction is covered by one of the other conditions in this section (e.g. "fair dealing" for criticism or review).

(5) The copyright owner has given permission. If you are uncertain whether copyright law allows you to reproduce an item, it is advisable to obtain permission from the copyright owner (for publications, it is usually best to start by contacting the publisher). Note that the copyright of most items in the SOAS Library is not owned by SOAS, and SOAS cannot grant permission on behalf of other copyright owners.

Last updated February 2008