Copyright matters - research support


Using copyright protected works in the research process


Fair Dealing and reasonable portions

In broad terms, the most important elements of copyright legislation relevant to you as a researcher are: Fair Dealing and Reasonable Portions.

Fair Dealing for the purpose of research and study allows an individual to make a copy of a ‘reasonable portion’ of a copyrighted work for their own research and study without seeking permission or making any royalty payment, although full acknowledgement must be made unless author has specified otherwise.

A ‘reasonable portion’ of a work for to be copied for your own research consists of:

Copying from a book

1 chapter or 10% of the pages (whichever is greater)

You may copy more than a ‘reasonable portion’ for research and study if:

  • the book is out of print or otherwise unavailable - please contact the University copyright coordinator for more information about this.
  • the book's author died more than 70 years ago. Copyright has ceased to apply so you can copy as much as you want.
  • the book has been published with a Creative Commons licence. You can copy and use the material as defined under the terms of the particular licence.
  • you have received permission from the copyright owner.

Copying from an anthology

Any work of fewer than 15 pages from an anthology of separate works (e.g. a selection of essays, a collection of poems, etc.).

Artistic works

It is considered ‘reasonable’ to reproduce ‘artistic works’ (including maps, diagrams, graphs, etc) that accompany and illustrate or explain a text being copied under Fair Dealing.

Copying from a journal or other periodical

One article from any one issue of a journal, or any number of articles from an issue of a journal if you need them all for the same research or course of study.

Copying from a website

The Copyright Act allows you to download 10% of the number of words in a published work in electronic form. However, many websites give either an implicit or explicit licence to download their materials:

  • an implicit licence might be a printer icon or pdf symbol inviting you to make a copy of content from the website.
  • an explicit licence would probably be set out in the website's terms and conditions or copyright information. Look on the homepage for links to 'Terms of Use' or 'Copyright' where you may find that you can download content for your personal, non-commercial use.


Copyright ownership in your research output

Creating copyright protected material

The creator of an original work is, usually, the copyright owner. Unless you have agreed otherwise, with a funding body for instance, you own the copyright in anything you write, draw, script, photograph, etc.

Copyright ownership in oral histories and recorded interviews

In the case of sound recordings, especially of oral histories and interviews, there are alternative possible copyright owners: the interviewer and the interviewees.

There is no copyright in the spoken word, only in its tangible expression as a ‘work’, for example a transcription or sound recording. The copyright owner of that tangible expression is usually the person who physically makes the recording or transcription, not the person who speaks the words.

When recording an oral history, the interviewer would usually be considered as the copyright owner because they have created the ‘tangible expression’ that is the recording. However, you may want to consider whether ethically, if not legally, the copyright owner should be the interviewee, because it is ‘their’ story even though there may have been no material ‘work’ prior to the recording.

However, where there has been a more complex undertaking by the interviewer, it may be fair to consider them as the copyright owner, or co-owner with the interviewees. This could depend on the interviewer's input in the design of the interview, and the degree of their commentary or interpretation of the recorded material.

Best practice is to clarify and confirm copyright arrangements with interviewees as early as possible. You should also explain the implications of publishing oral histories etc. online.