This is the "Introduction" page of the "Copyright" guide.
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Information on copyright law, licences, and fair dealing.
Last Updated: Aug 7, 2014 URL: Print Guide

Introduction Print Page


This guide is aimed at helping students and staff to stay within the law when using copyright material. Copyright is a complex subject so this guide does not aim to cover every aspect. If it does not help you with your particular copyright question then please contact me.



This guide does not qualify as legal advice, and should not be taken as superceding the requirements expressed in any licence agreements that the University may have with rights organisations or publishers. Whilst we have endeavoured to ensure the accuracy of the statements in these guidelines, responsibility for the consequences of any action, or lack of action, taken by a reader as a result of reading these guidelines remains with the reader concerned.


Copyright Law Defined

Copyright is a form of intellectual property and is part of a broader range of intellectual property rights, including patents, designs and trademarks. Copyright is implicit in the very act of creating anything which is original, be it a literary work, painting, sculpture, computer programme or just about anything which has a physical form of expression. As it is a form of property right it can be waived or assigned to another person or body. Copyright does not have to be registered or proved; as long as the work is original copyright is already invested in it automatically under UK law.

The primary source of UK copyright law is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 (c.48) (CDPA). This act gives copyright owners the right to exploit certain types of creative works and control their use for a limited period.  It lays down what can and cannot be done by individual members of the public and also what institutions such as university libraries can legitimately do in terms of copying for stock and other people. The act has been amended significantly over the years and so the original print version should not be read in isolation.

Who owns the copyright?

  • In literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works: The author(s) is the first owner of the copyright
  • Work created in the course of employment is usually owned by the employer
  • At Lancaster academics retain the copyright in work created for teaching and research
  • Copyright can assigned to others, either wholly or piecemeal

Moral rights

These exist alongside the copyright, and cannot be waived or assigned to others.

  • Paternity right: The right to be identified as the author
  • Integrity right: The right to object to derogatory treatment of your work
  • False attribution right: The right not to have your work falsely attributed to another


The typical length of time that a work is in copyright is 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died. A publisher will also have a copyright in the typographical arrangement of a literary work, typically 25 years from the date of publication.

However, this period of time can vary with some kinds of material e.g. photographs and sound recordings, so advice should be sought if you are unclear.


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