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Copyright is rarely considered until the very end or during a research project, but there are a few important issues that you must consider at the outset:

  • Is this work possibly going to lead to a Patent application i.e. is it a new invention? You must keep your project secret until the Patent application has been registered. RKTO will be able to advise you how to do this.
  • You will need  to document every stage of your research to prove ownership in the event of a dispute. All copies of notes, documents, diagrams recordings etc. should be retained and never deleted or disposed of.
  • What do you intend to do with your work once it's completed, e.g. upload onto the University repository, publish, present at a conference, exploit commercially? If you wish to make the work available to the public and it includes substantial amounts of copied third party content, you may need to ask for permission. Permissions can take a long may incur a cost or be declined.
  • What type of third party copyright work might you need to include and will it require permissions? If so you will need to set aside a budget for possible copyright permission fees and the administration.

Research often involves an element of copying from and/or building upon pre-existing work or information such as text, data, images, diagrams, music, performances, designs, inventions. Although UK copyright Law has certain copyright 'fair dealing' exceptions in place to remove obstacles and allow research and innovation to develop freely, these exceptions have certain limitations and requirements.

Legal Exceptions

The exceptions most relevant to research are contained in the General Exceptions of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and amendments:

S.29 Research and private study
S.29A Copies for text and data analysis for non-commercial research
S.30 Criticism, review, quotation and news reporting
S.30A Caricature, parody or pastiche
S.31 Incidental inclusion of copyright material

The legal exceptions will not apply to re-using copyright infringing/pirated content. Therefore, always ensure you are copying from a genuinely provided version of the copyright protected content.


In instances where the exceptions don't apply or the limits and requirements have not been met, you will be required to obtain copyright permission from the copyright owner unless you can find genuinely copyright free or licensed content that you can include freely i.e. it has been made available or licensed by or with the authority of the copyright owner e.g. Creative Commons Licensing.

If the content includes personal data, you will also require permission from the individual or need to anonymise the information.

It is advisable to maintain a 'Rights Management Database' to track your permissions requests and document your research documents, permissions, consent forms, also permissions you may have granted others to use your work. This can be a simple spreadsheet.

For further information, please see Research policies, procedures and regulations or the comprehensive JISC/SCA IPR Toolkit .

Or contact:

Kate Vasili, University Copyright Officer, at: k.vasili@mdx.ac.uk

Charles Annan, Policy,Compliance & Legal Support Officer, at: c.annan@mdx.ac.uk

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