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Library Copyright Guidance: Photocopying Library Material

The Library provides self-service photocopiers for the convenience of its users (see the Library's Photocopying services page). Items which are out of copyright can be photocopied by users without restriction (see Summary of the duration of copyright). However, photocopying of "in copyright" items will usually have to be done under either fair dealing for private study or research, or SOAS's licence with the Copyright Licensing Agency. This section explains what these types of permission are, and the differences between them. 

Separate rules apply to items in the custody of the Special Collections department, for which self-service photocopying is not allowed (see Special Collections material).

Brief guidance on what Library users can photocopy is also available on posters which are located next to the self-service photocopiers.

1. Photocopying under "fair dealing" for private study or research 

"Fair dealing" for private study or research is one of the exceptions in the UK's Copyright, Designs and Patents Act which allow copying of copyright protected material without the permission of the copyright owner. The concept is not defined in the legislation, but the underlying idea is that the copying should benefit the individual or society without harming the interests of the copyright owner.

SOAS students and staff and external users of the Library may photocopy extracts from literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works under this exception (for definitions of these terms, see What is copyright - and why it matters). For “fair dealing” to apply, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • No more than a single photocopy should be produced, for the personal use of the person doing the copying. Multiple copying (e.g. by teachers for students) is not permitted under “fair dealing” for private study or research (but may be permitted under SOAS's CLA licence: see below).
  • The purpose of the copying must be non-commercial research or private study. "Non-commercial" is not defined, but is believed to rule out any copying for direct or indirect commercial advantage: e.g. copying on behalf of a private sector employer. Many writers also believe that it excludes background research for books or articles for which a fee will be paid to the author.
  • The source of the copy must be acknowledged. This means recording at least the name of the author and the title on the photocopy if this is not already included.
  • The proportion of the work that is photocopied must not be “unfair” in terms of its impact on the copyright owner. There are no defined limits, but the amount that may be copied is usually accepted to be:
    • One complete chapter or extracts of up to 5% of a book, whichever is greater.
    • One article from an issue of a journal or a periodical (e.g. a newspaper).
    • Up to 10 pages of a poem, short story, or other short literary work, taken from a volume of short stories or poems.
    • Up to 10% (maximum 20 pages) of a short book, report or pamphlet.
2. Photocopying under the CLA licence 

SOAS has a licence with the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) which allows SOAS students and staff (including Emeritus and Honorary staff, but not external users of the Library) to make photocopies of extracts of copyright-protected printed books, journals and magazines, in line with the limits and conditions set out below.

Photocopying is limited to (whichever is the greater):

  • Up to 10% or one complete chapter of a book, plus any associated endnotes or references. E.g. if a chapter comprises 25% of a book, you can photocopy the entire chapter; but if you want to photocopy extracts from more than one chapter, you can only copy up to 10% of the book.
  • Up to 10% or one complete article from a single issue of a journal or magazine, plus any associated endnotes or references. Note that these limits apply per issue, so you can photocopy one article from the first issue of a journal, one article from the second issue etc.
  • Up to 10% or one report of one case from a report of judicial proceedings.
  • Up to 10% or one paper from a set of conference proceedings.
  • Up to 10% of an anthology of short stories or poems or one short story or one poem of not more than 10 pages.

These limits apply per work per course. E.g. a student can copy one chapter from a book for one course, and the same chapter or a different chapter for another course where the book is also on the reading list.

Photocopying is allowed where material has been published:

  • In the UK, USA; or
  • In one of the following "mandating territories": Argentina, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Canada (including Quebec), Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Malawi, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago and Turkey; or
  • ... provided the work does not appear on the CLA's List of Excluded Categories and Excluded Works or list of Excluded US Publishers. These lists covers authors and publishers who have decided to exclude some or all of their works from the licence.

The CLA licence does not allow users to copy:

  • Printed music (including the words)
  • Maps and charts
  • Newspapers (see Photocopying newspapers, below for the conditions under which newspapers can be copied)
  • Unpublished works, e.g. manuscripts, archives and doctoral theses
  • Works on the CLA’s list of Excluded US Publishers
  • Works excluded directly by the author or artist
  • Works excluded by the publisher
  • Works published outside the UK or the "mandating territories"
  • Publications which include a statement that they are excluded from licences granted by the Copyright Licensing Agency

Other licence conditions:

  • The photocopy must be produced from an original book, journal etc owned by SOAS, or from a "copyright fee paid" copy of a chapter or article supplied by an organisation that has a document delivery licence with the CLA (e.g. the British Library). Photocopying of interlibrary loans is not covered by the licence.
  • Multiple copying is permitted: e.g. a student may produce photocopies of an item for other students in the same class; a staff member can produce multiple copies to give out in class, or for inclusion in a course pack.
3. Differences between photocopying under "fair dealing" and under the CLA licence 

There is a substantial overlap between photocopying under "fair dealing" for private study or research and photocopying under the CLA licence. Works which can be photocopied under the CLA licence can normally also be copied under "fair dealing" (but not vice versa), and the CLA licence grants rights that go beyond "fair dealing". This section summarises the differences between the two authorisations for photocopying, in order to help users decide which one to rely on.

  • Who can copy: the CLA licence only authorises photocopying by SOAS staff, whereas any Library user can photocopy under "fair dealing". External Library users who wish to photocopy items must rely on "fair dealing" for private study or research, or on one of the copyright provisions that allow material to be copied in order to reproduce it in another work (see Reproduction of Library materials).
  • What can be copied: any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work can be photocopied under "fair dealing" (for definitions of these terms, see What is copyright - and why it matters). There are limits to which works can be copied under the CLA licence, and these limits are based on the category of work (e.g. printed music), whether photocopying or scanning is allowed by a specific territory or publisher, whether reproduction of digital material is allowed by a specific territory or publisher, or whether an author or artist has excluded their work. If the item which you want to photocopy is not covered by the CLA licence, it will have to be copied under "fair dealing" or one of the provisions relating to the Reproduction of Library materials.
  • How much can be copied: the extent limits for photocopying under the CLA licence and under "fair dealing" appear essentially the same. However, the recommended limits for copying under "fair dealing" are simply that: recommendations based on library sector practice, the views of writers on copyright and guidance issued by other institutions. There is no way of predicting what the courts will decide is a "fair" amount in the event of a dispute. By contrast, the CLA licence sets down definite limits on how much can be photocopied and therefore provides a greater degree of certainty.
  • The purpose of photocopying: to be legal, photocopying under "fair dealing" must be for the purpose of non-commercial private study or research. This condition does not apply to photocopying by SOAS staff or students under the CLA licence: e.g. copies can be produced for commercially funded research, or as research for a book or article for which a fee will be paid. Photocopying for commercial purposes should therefore be carried out under the CLA licence or under one of the provisions relating to the Reproduction of Library materials.
  • Multiple copying: this is allowed by the CLA licence, but not under "fair dealing". If multiple copies of a book chapter or journal article need to be produced for teaching purposes, this should normally be done under the CLA licence. For further guidance, see How to comply with copyright when photocopying.

Neither "fair dealing" for private study or research nor the CLA photocopying licence authorises the reproduction of copyright protected material in other works, such as publications, coursework or dissertations. If you want to incorporate extracts from items held in the Library in other works, you need to ensure that your photocopying is covered by one of the copyright provisions that allow the Reproduction of Library materials.

Last updated: October 2019