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Copyright: for learning, teaching, and research

This guide introduces key concepts of copyright relevant to those both studying and working at the University of Essex.

This guide has been adapted from Copyright guidance created at the University of Kent. Morrison, Chris and Groth-Seary, Angela (2020) University of Kent Copyright Guidance. University of Kent, Kent, UK. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.92664).

The 2022 version of this guide is available in Word Document and PDF formats at:

Copyright for students

When studying at the University of Essex, you'll be using and creating works protected by copyright. This page gives you the general copyright information needed to help you in your studies and future career. If you're a Law or Creative Arts student, you may cover copyright in more depth as part of your course.

Using copyrighted works

Creative works, such as books, photographs, music, and film, are all protected by copyright automatically when written down, recorded, or saved. This gives the copyright owner the right to decide what you're allowed to do with that work. You should always make sure your use of a copyright work is legal. 

If you infringe copyright by using someone else's work unfairly and without permission, you may be liable for legal action. However, various copyright licences and exceptions exist to help ensure copyright can be used as an enabler of creativity, and not a restrictor. Read on to find out how you can legally use copyright works within your studies.

Most of the books, journals, databases, and software you use in your studies are protected by copyright. Your tuition fees help us to pay licence fees that allow us to provide you with the resources you need.

While these licences allow you to access these resources for your studies, they don't allow you to share them with others online. You may want to copy or share works that are not covered by a licence paid for by the University. In some cases, you'll need permission from the copyright holder. These situations include:

  • If you want to publicly perform a play. In this situation, you need to contact a theatrical agency such as Concord Theatricals.
  • If you want to show films to a public audience in a non-educational setting. In this case, you would need to get permission from an organisation like Filmbank.

In other cases, your activity may be covered by a copyright exception even if you don't have a licence. The next tab explains some of these situations.

There are exceptions to copyright that allow you to make copies of copyright works and use these copies without a licence when writing coursework, essays, and other projects. For example, you may need to:

  • Quote some text from a book in an assignment, or incorporate film clips into a video essay.
  • Make personal copies of extracts from print books or journals to annotate or read for your assignments.
  • Make copies or adapt works into different formats if you have accessibility requirements.
  • Watch a screening of a film in a lecture or seminar.
  • Perform a play in class.
  • Use an extract from a musical work within an assignment.

It's important that your use of copyright materials is fair to the copyright owner, and that you always credit the author or producers of the works you're using. As long as this is the case, the above uses are permitted.  If you have specific questions about using other people's copyright works in a fair and legal way, please get in touch.

Copyright in your work

You own the copyright in the original scholarly work you create at the University of Essex. This includes personal lecture notes, essays, and examination responses in any form. 

If you create copyright material in collaboration with others, you'll share the copyright ownership. If you create work with significant input from University of Essex staff, the University may own the copyright to this work. This would affect what you are able to do with that work. If you need any advice on copyright ownership of work you have been involved with, get in touch

Copyright and your thesis

If you're a PGR student and have used other people's work in your thesis, you'll need to be aware of any necessary copyright clearance for these works before uploading your work to the Research Repository. This is known as 'third party copyright clearance'. More information on this is available via the University webpages.

Copyright vs. plagiarism

Plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same thing, but you should avoid doing either. 

  • Plagiarism means presenting someone else's work as your own, even if you don't copy their precise words or creative expression.
  • Copyright infringement means copying or sharing someone else's creative work without their permission - this can happen even if you're not representing their work as your own.

Work you submit for assessment must be your own original work. You can find out more about academic integrity, authorship, and plagiarism on the University's webpages.

Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work by University of Essex Library and Cultural Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.