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Copyright, Fair Dealing and Library Privilege

In the UK copyright is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988, although this has been significantly amended to conform to the requirements of EU directives. As the UK’s National Library, the British Library’s services are governed by this legislation.

There are three ways in which the British Library may copy items:

  • The item is out of copyright.
  • Under a licence with the rights owners, either directly or through licensing agencies such as the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) or the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC).
  • Under the exceptions in law such as fair dealing; however there are limitations on how these copies can be used.

Fair Dealing and Library Privilege

If a copy of a book chapter or article is made by an individual for their own private study or non-commercial research purposes, it falls under the fair dealing exception under UK copyright law. The amount that may be copied is normally interpreted as being no more than 5% or one chapter of a book or one article from a single issue of a journal.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act allows certain prescribed libraries to make fair dealing copies on behalf of researchers which is one of the so called “library privilege exceptions”. The library privilege  exception allows a prescribed library to:

  • make a single copy for a UK based library user providing usage is for private study or non-commercial research purposes. The British Library can provide a copy in this manner either on site in its Reading Rooms or remotely using the Document Supply services. Users must sign a declaration form stating they are adhering to copyright regulations and remote users must order through a third party library, such as a public or university library, who collect and keep the signed declaration forms.
  • make copies of items in the British Library’s collection for preservation purposes.
  • make copies to replace lost, damaged or destroyed works.
  • make copies of an entire unpublished item on behalf of a user providing the work is used only for private study or non-commercial research, and the copyright owner of the work has not prohibited copying for this purpose.

For further information contact:

Additional Resources:

British Library Document Supply Service (BLDSS)

Legal Deposit