Self-service copyright regulations and preservation policy and restrictions

Readers at desks in the Manuscript Reading Room
Reading Room Paul Grundy

Before you copy or photograph items in our Reading Rooms please be aware of our self-service copyright regulations and preservation policy and restrictions.

Self-service copyright regulations

Most published works are protected by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or applicable international legislation. Under these laws copyright protection for most literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works lasts 70 years from the end of the year in which the creator died.

Breaching copyright law is an offence. You are legally responsible for any copies made.

If you are intending to copy the material for the following uses, you may be able to make the copy under one of the ‘Fair Dealing’ exceptions. Details of the most commonly used exceptions can be found below:

  • research or private study, neither of which may be for a commercial purpose, or
  • criticism, review, quotation or news reporting.

These exceptions allow individuals to copy excerpts of copyright protected works legally provided certain terms are met:

  • unless it is impractical, the source of all copies must be acknowledged
  • you should only make a single copy, and this should not be further copied
  • the excerpt must be short and must not be more than is required by the specific purpose for which it used
  • the use of the excerpt must be considered ‘fair’.

A commonly used rule of thumb is that around 5% of a work can be copied under these exceptions, however this is not an amount explicitly mentioned in the law.

Further information on the available exceptions, along with details on how much can be copied and what uses are considered ‘fair’, can be found on the UK Intellectual Property Office website.

As the one making the copy, it is your responsibility to ensure the use complies with the relevant copyright legislation. If in doubt, please visit the UK Intellectual Property Office website for further information.

If the copy is needed for a commercial purpose, or if you cannot comply with the criteria above, you must have the prior permission of the copyright owner or pay a copyright fee.

Copyright fees

The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) and Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) Licensing Schemes provide a simple way in which you can pay a copyright fee, for self-service copying, and then lawfully copy an extract from a book, magazine, journal or newspaper for commercial purposes. For further information, please consult staff at the Copying Service Desk in the Library's Reading Rooms.

Preservation policy and restrictions

The introduction of overhead scanners and self-service photography provide less invasive ways of obtaining reference copies of collection items. We therefore limit the types of collection items that can be photocopied to modern (post-1851) printed items in a good condition.

In order to minimise risks to the collections the following material cannot be scanned:

  • any items published before 1851 and some categories of some other rare material published post-1851
  • any manuscripts; photographs and public records and all music collection items
  • items larger than A4 and/or heavier than 4kg
  • any material that weighs 9lbs (4kg) or more
  • tightly bound, vellum or fine bindings
  • damaged collection items, e.g. those containing brittle paper, a cracked spine, loose pages and covers
  • all foldouts within bound items.

There are also special restrictions on copying some of the Business material. Clients of the Business & IP Centre should consult with the Reference Enquiry Desk.

If a book you wish to copy is refused for self-service copying, it is often permissible for our staff to copy it on specialised 'face up' digital copiers. Alternatively, we will help you find out whether another edition of the book is available, or if it has been previously microfilmed.