A knowledge and understanding of copyright is fundamental when working in all library and knowledge service sectors. Without it, both you and your organisation could be a risk of infringing copyright legislation and possible prosecution.

What is copyright and why is it important?

“Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression.”

Many different types of work, including photographs, illustrations, computer programs, written works and others are classed as intellectual property, and are covered by copyright. Works need to be original, meaning they have been created by an individual, with the “copyright owner” being, at least initially, the person who created the work in the first place.

Using work that someone else has created without first obtaining permission is called “copyright infringement”, of which there are two types – Primary and Secondary.

Copyright infringement is against the law. This means that if someone knows, or believes they may be, infringing copyright, then the copyright owner can take legal action against the person or organisation that has infringed their copyright.

What can we do?

Libraries hold copyrighted material that our users need to utilise for their own work. Because of this, there are terms under the law that allow the copying of material under some circumstances.

  • Non-commercial research and private study – this allows students and researchers to make a limited number of copies for their own study or research, provided they do not intend it for commercial purposes.
  • Teaching – making copies that are purely for the purposes of teaching.
  • Fair dealing – this is a legal term used to establish whether use of copyrighted material is legal or not, and is used to determine “how a fair-minded and honest person deal with the work?”
    Source: Exceptions to copyright

It’s important that we make clear what the rules regarding copyright are to users, and that if they have found something that they want to make use of available somewhere, that they can’t simply use it, because someone else will own the copyright of whatever it is they want to use, whether it is a book chapter, a journal article, an image or something else.

Table showing recommended rules related to copyright
Copyright Rules to Remember
Source: The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons
K. Morris

What do I need to know and where can I learn more?

The NHS has specific copyright licenses with the Copyright Licensing Agency, and these set out what regulations you must follow. These licenses are reviewed regularly and updates will be publicised on local and national mailing lists.

Copyright Licensing Agency logo

Health Education England’s Knowledge and Library Services team provides information on the CLA’s various NHS licenses, as well as what is permissible for libraries to supply under “Library Privilege“. It also has information and guidance prepared by the NHS Copyright First Responders Group on various specific topics, such as Document Delivery, NHS / HE crossover, using copyrighted material in presentations, and many other areas.

Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that provides special standardised licenses that grant copyright permissions, allowing people to copy, distribute and make use of works. Creative Commons provides six different types of copyright license that can be applied to work, which have various permissions attached to them that a user would need to think about when asking what they are permitted to do with the work.

Creative Commons logo

Look out locally and nationally for training and updates from HEE and other providers.

Who can I contact?

HEE’s Copyright First Responders –
Local colleagues that deal with copyright issues

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