Exceptions to Copyright

Copyright gives authors and owners some significant rights to determine whether and how their works may be reproduced or otherwise used. (See Copyright Ownership: What Rights Do You Have?)

However, there are exceptions which allow use of copyright works within certain conditions and limits, without infringing copyright. You will not infringe copyright if you use less than a substantial part of a copyright protected work (although what is substantial can be difficult to determine and is not only considered in terms of the proportion of the work taken). There are a number of provisions in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) that allow use of copyright material without infringing. These are referred to in this booklet as permitted uses.

Please note that this list is not exhaustive and particular care should be taken if you intend to rely on an exception. Not all the exceptions apply to all sorts of works. For example, the exception for news reporting does not apply to photographs. Also in the case of some works, the exception may require you to acknowledge the author of the work.

Non-commercial research and private study

This exception allows the making of single copies or the taking of short extracts of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works as well as typographical arrangements when the use is for research (from which no money is made) or for private study (for educational courses, or for use in connection with a hobby). These copies or short extracts must be supported by sufficient acknowledgment.

Criticism, review and reporting current events

This exception allows the criticism or review or the reporting of current events using copyright works. This criticism, review or reporting of current events must be with sufficient acknowledgment (although this requirement does not apply to sound recordings, films or broadcast) and the work must have been made available to the public (so, not an unpublished work). This exception does not apply to photographs.

Teaching in educational establishments

A number of exceptions apply to schools, universities and other educational establishments.

These include:

  1. copying a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work in the course of teaching as long as a reprographic process is not used (reprographic process means using a fax machine, photocopier or any appliance which makes multiple copies). For example, teachers writing material on the board or an overhead projector and students making their own copies by writing, painting, typing, etc.

  2. anything done for setting or answering examination questions (this does not include photocopying music that is to be performed in an exam).

  3. performing, playing or showing copyright works in a school, university or other educational establishment for educational purposes. However, it only applies if the audience is limited to teachers, pupils and others directly connected with the activities of the establishment. It will not generally apply if parents are in the audience. Showing a video for English or drama lessons and the teaching of music would generally be likely to come within the exception. Playing a video during a wet playtime purely to amuse the children would not.

  4. recording a broadcast for non-commercial educational purposes in an educational establishment.

  5. reprographic copies (by an appliance that makes multiple copies, such as a photocopier) of passages from published literary, dramatic or musical works.

However, if an educational establishment wishes to record a broadcast or make reprographic copies of passages from literary, dramatic or musical works it will need a licence. A licence to record a broadcast for non-commercial education purposes can be obtained from the ERA or the Open University. A licence to copy passages from published literary or dramatic works can be obtained from the Copyright Licensing Agency.

Exceptions for the disabled

A number of exceptions exist for the visually impaired. For example:

  1. A visually impaired person may have a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (which they are able to make lawful use of but cannot because of their visual impairment) made into a format that allows them access to the work. The work must not already be available commercially in a format that allows the work to be accessed. For example, a visually impaired person may commission for a book they own or have loaned from a library, to be made into a Braille copy.

  2. If there is no way a licence can be obtained (through a licensing scheme or a collecting society), then an educational establishment may make or supply copies accessible to the visually impaired without infringing copyright.

  3. An exception exists for those of poor hearing. If there is no licensing scheme in place, a designated body can make copies of broadcasts with subtitles or any other modification which will help those who are deaf, hard of hearing or physically or mentally disabled.


A recording of a broadcast can be made in domestic premises for private and domestic use to enable it to be viewed or listened to at a more convenient time.

This time-shifting exception does not however cover the making of recordings for placing in a collection for repeated viewing or listening. The making of a recording for purposes other than to time-shift a programme for you or your family is likely to be an infringement of copyright.

This business advice article is subject to Crown Copyright © 2012

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>