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Student Copyright Guide

How much of a print book or journal can I legally photocopy for my own personal use?

For personal research and study there is a 'fair dealing' exception under copyright law. Fair dealing includes copying a non-substantial amount of copyright work for private research or study; and using copyright material for criticism, review and news reporting.

This means that as a student you can copy a journal article or sections from a book, as long as it is for your own private use.

There is no defined amount on how much you are allowed to copy - the law simply says 'non-substantial' and 'fair', but this is not defined. Half of a book would be substantial, one chapter would not. A small selection of text may count as substantial if, for example, it gave away key plot points in a novel.

A general rule of thumb is:

  • 5% or one chapter of a book, whichever is the greater.
  • 5% or one whole article from a journal, whichever is the greater.
  • 5% or one whole paper from a set of conference proceedings or published report of judicial proceedings, whichever is the greater.
  • 5% of an anthology of short stories or poems; or one short story or one poem of no more than 10 pages, whichever is the greater.
  • Short extracts of 400 words or less may be quoted or copied, but longer extracts will require the permission of the copyright holder.

However, this is simply a rough guide. The above amounts may be considered a general rule of thumb - you have to decide for yourself what you would consider a 'fair' amount. Obviously, copying an entire book or journal to save buying it would not be fair!

Are the rules the same for downloading electronic journal articles?

If the database you are accessing allows you to download a copy of the article, either by downloading a PDF or by saving an HTML version of the website, then you are allowed to do this.

However, the copy you download is only for your own personal use - you cannot email it to a friend, or if you print it out you cannot give or lend this printout to a friend, or let them make a photocopy or scan of it.

Can I make multiple photocopies of a print journal article or book chapter?

Copyright law only allows you to make a single copy of something for your own personal private research or study. This means you can make a photocopy of a journal article or sections of a book for your own study - but you cannot however make multiple copies, even as a favour to a friend!

Are the rules the same for scanning as photocopying?

Yes, under the law you can scan something in exactly the same way and amount as photocopying. Scanning and photocopying both involve making a copy, therefore the law treats them the same, and scans are subject to the same restrictions regarding amount and fairness.

Can I photocopy a whole print thesis?

No, theses are classed as unpublished works, and are usually treated under fair dealing provisions, i.e. a 'reasonable' amount may be copied. 'Reasonable' is not defined under copyright law, but is generally considered as anything under 50% of the overall work.

You may be able to request a complete electronic copy of a thesis from the British Library's ETHOS service, or, if it is a recent University of Derby thesis, an electronic copy may be stored on UDORA.