The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 sets out the law governing UK copyright. Various amendments have been made to the Act since 1988, in order to reflect changes in society and technology, and these changes have been incorporated into the provisions of the Act.
The Library has many print and electronic books on this subject if you would like to explore it in more detail.
A work can be subject to multiple copyrights at the same time. For example, books may be subject to copyright in:
In the case of books there may be multiple copyright owners whose rights you need to consider:
The copyright owner has the exclusive right to:
Copyright infringement is the use of works protected by copyright law without permission, infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works.
However, copyright does not last forever so consider whether the work you wish to use is out of copyright.
And, copyright is only infringed if you use a 'substantial part' of the copyright work. Insubstantial parts can be used without infringinging the owner's rights.
Remember that copyright protection does not last forever. If you are using historic material then it may not longer be protected. Differing copyright durations apply to different forms of work:
You should remember, however, that the different forms of copyright are distinct from one another. For example, typographical copyright is distinct from the author's copyright in the text itself. Typographical copyright covers the layout/arrangement of the text so it can exist even where the literary copyright in the work has long since expired - e.g. a new edition of one of Shakespeare's plays. If you wished to reuse material from a Shakespeare play or a Dickens novel, you would need to consider whether the copy you wish to reuse was published within the last 25 years.
A typographical arrangement that simply reproduces a previous edition (e.g. a reprint) will not acquire a fresh 25 year copyright protection.
Copyright is infringed only when a 'substantial part' of a work is copied or used in any other way that is within the exclusive rights of the owner, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works.
This means you can use insubstantial parts without infringing copyright. Unfortunately there is no magic formula available to help you weigh up what is a substantial versus an insubstantial part and it will vary in each circumstance. Substantial part is not defined in the Act, but has been interpreted by the courts from a qualitative, not just a quantitative viewpoint.
Therefore a small portion of a work could be found to be substantial, depending on the particular facts in question. For example, an executive summary of a long report could be considered substantial, even though it may be short when compared to the work as a whole, as it can encapsulates the key findings from the report, and may act as a substitute for the full report for some users, and affect the creator's right to income from their creative endeavours.
In the case of using images, photographs, illustrations etc. it is often the case that you wish to reuse/reproduce the whole of the item, so that the substantial part question does not arise.
If in doubt it is advisable to err on the side of caution and seek permission to use the material rather than 'hope' you can argue the material is an insubstantial part at a later date.
Owing to the uncertainty in this area, it can be more useful to look at the fair dealing provisions that the law provides for those who wish to make use of a substantial part of a work.
And if the fair dealing provisions do not apply to your use of the materials, then you will need to seek permission.