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Starting your research

How can I use other people's copyright material in my research?

You should incorporate copyright management into your research process. By doing this when it comes to publishing your research you can be sure that you have all permissions necessary and it will help save time.

Insubstantial part

You won't infringe another person's copyright if you only include an insubstantial part of their material in your research. Assessing what is a substantial part can be difficult as substantiality is determined on a qualitative, rather than a quantitative basis, so each situation will need to be assessed on its own merits. Therefore, very small portions of material may represent an important, distinctive or essential component of the original.

Fair dealing

To encourage the widest possible use of intellectual material, copyright legislation includes certain 'exceptions' to the rights of copyright owners, which allow limited uses of copyright material without having to obtain permission. These are known as the 'Fair Dealing' exceptions.

As a researcher you are most likely to use 'Fair Dealing' for the purpose of 'research or study' and/or 'criticism or review'. These exceptions allow limited uses of other people's material as long as the use is 'fair' - to determine if your intended use is fair you need to consider the following factors:

  • The purpose and character of the dealing
  • The nature of the work or adaptation
  • The possibility of obtaining the work or adaptation within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price
  • The effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of, the work or adaptation
  • The amount and substantiality of the part copied taken in relation to the whole work or adaptation

For more detailed information on Fair Dealing for research or study see the Fair Dealing web page.

Consider your intended research outcome

At the point of incorporating other people's material in your research, consider whether that material will be an essential component of your final publication. If the answer is 'yes' you will need to obtain permission to use it. It can be difficult to determine whether or not you have permission to use someone else's work.

Log what you use

Create a log to record the details of any copyright material you use in your research. This will help you identify and assess copyright material you have included in your research. A sample log is available for download as part of the Copyright for Researchers Toolkit (see links below).

Is there copyright in collection of data?

Copyright can protect compilations of material or data where there has been skill, judgment, labour or expense required to compile it. More information on data collection is available on the Copyright and Collecting Data page.

Download the Copyright for Researchers Toolkit A4 (PDF, 201kb)