Skip to content

This guide contains information about using copyright works as a student. Click on each heading to find out how the law applies to you and how to use other people’s work legally.

View all Close all
Fair dealing

You can copy material for non-commercial research and private study as long as it is fair. This broadly means that your copying will not damage the commercial interests of the rights-holder.

There is no exact percentage of the ‘limited‘ amount you can copy under fair dealing however the following copying guidelines are often used as safe indicators of what is it fair to copy.

  • In the case of a book, one whole chapter or 10% of it, whichever is the greatest.

  • In the case of a journal article or conference proceeding, one article or 10% of a whole issue, whichever is the greatest.

  • One illustration, diagram or map from the above, not exceeding A4 size.

Up to 10% of a pamphlet, report or standard, up to a maximum of 20 pages.

CLA HE licence

In addition, St George’s, University of London, in line with other higher education (HE) institutions, has bought a Higher Education Licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), which permits other types of copying, sometimes over and above what is allowed under fair dealing.

A CLA HE licence covers the photocopying and scanning of most UK publications and some US and international publishers.

It allows:

  • multiple photocopies of limited extracts from copyright-protected printed books, journals and magazines

  • digital copies of limited extracts from copyright-protected printed books, journals and magazines.

Exams and coursework

The law allows you to include copied material for your assessed work, even if you need to provide more than one copy of your work for your tutors. However, you must always include appropriate acknowledgement. They must always be cited and referenced; this also will help you avoid plagiarism.

The legal permission to copy for assessed work does not extend to making your work publically available in any way, such as via publication, display or exhibition. You must obtain written permission from the rights-holder before you make the work available to the public.

Photographs and other images

Images are more risky to copy than text as you copy the whole image. Where possible, use your own photos, websites that offer free photographs, and photographs licensed with Creative Commons licences which grant permission to reuse or even adapt images for your own personal non-commercial use.

In assignments you may include a small number of figures taken from books and journals in the library‘s collection. These should be used to illustrate an academic point and not to enhance the appearance of your work. They must always be cited and referenced; this also will help you avoid plagiarism.

The web and social media

The casual nature of social media and the internet can promote a relaxed attitude to rights issues. Materials on the internet are however protected by copyright and you should only copy them within the limits set by UK copyright law and the terms of use displayed on the website you are using.

If you wish to share materials you have found on the internet with other students, supply them with a link rather than a copy.


Find a profileSearch by A-Z