Copyright guidance for students

The following is not legal advice or a complete guide to copyright, but gives an introduction to copyright and general guidance on what you can and cannot do, particularly with Online Library materials.  We hope you find this guidance helpful, but please contact us if you have any queries.

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Guidance on what you can do

Most Online Library databases and Dawsons E-books will allow you to copy articles or limited extracts for your own private study/personal use.

Online Library Articles 

You should be able to print or download the vast majority of the articles in the Online Library that you need for your studies in connection with your University of London distance learning course.  On very rare occasions you may find an article that is read only, but this is unusual.


Publishers place restrictions on the amount of text that you can copy from their e-books.  Most publishers will allow you to copy around 10% of an e-book, but some may allow you to copy more. 

Please note that due to these restrictions you can only copy text from within the read online view in VLeBooks.  You’ll be unable to copy from a downloaded e-book.  More guidance can be found in the VLeBooks help pages.

Guidance on what you cannot do

Online Library materials may only be used for your own private study in connection with your University of London distance learning course.  You must not share Online Library materials with anyone else, including your fellow students.  You may not post Online Library materials on discussion boards, student websites, blogs or on any other websites. 

Online Library materials must not be used for any commercial purpose, e.g. you cannot use them in connection with work (paid or unpaid employment) or attempt to sell copies, or incorporate copies into materials/publications for sale.

You must not remove or alter copyright statements on any copies of Online Library materials.

Your log ins and passwords are personal to you, and you must not share them with anyone else.  Please see our guidance on good password creation.

Once you have finished your studies you must not attempt to access or use any of the Online Library resources.  It’s possible that doing so could result in our suppliers or publishers charging you for use or taking legal action against you, but in any case your log ins and passwords will be disabled once you have completed your studies.

The Internet

The Online Library is ideal for supporting your University of London distance learning.  It is reliable, authoritative and it’s often quicker to use the Online Library than to search the Internet for material relevant to your studies.  But you will still want to, and sometimes need to, make use of the Internet. 

As far as copyright is concerned, whilst the contents of many websites on the Internet can be freely viewed they are still protected by copyright, and there may be restrictions on what you can copy, how much can be copied and what you can do with copied material.  Generally most free to view websites will allow you to copy limited extracts for private study or personal use but not for commercial purposes.  If possible, it’s always safest to check the terms and conditions of use of websites before copying. 


In addition, to avoid plagiarism please beware of copying and pasting material from websites into your course work without referencing it properly.  For further guidance please refer to our guide on citing references.

Also, please remember that you may be infringing copyright if you upload or publish someone else’s work on a website or on a social media site.

Generally you can copy links (hyperlink) to websites.  On rare occasions users are asked to link to certain pages only, such as the Home page, so ideally it’s best to check the terms and conditions of use of a website to see if there is any guidance on linking.


How do I know if something is subject to copyright?

Works are protected by copyright automatically when they are created, provided they are original.  A © symbol is not necessary.  You should always assume a work is protected by copyright unless there is an explicit indication that this is not the case.

Are web pages and social media content protected by copyright?

Yes.  Web pages, social media and other digital materials including e-journals and e-books are protected by copyright.

What about “Creative Commons”?

Some web content is licensed using a Creative Commons licence.  These works are still protected by copyright, but the copyright owner has granted permission for them to be used in the ways specified in the particular Creative Commons licence that has been applied.  Further information is available on the Creative Commons website.

Can I use copyright material in my coursework or dissertation?

You might be able to – it depends on the law in your country and what you want to do.  Copyright law in some countries will allow a certain amount of ‘fair’ use of copyright works for academic or research purposes, but exactly what this means will vary from country to country.  You should not assume that because you are using a copyright work for academic or research purposes that what you want to do is automatically legal.

Even where use of a copyright work is permitted by law, you should always acknowledge the source, as not doing so could be considered plagiarism – which is an academic offence rather than a legal one.

Can I share copies of journal articles and e-books with other students?

In general, no.  If the item is a resource from the Online Library such as journal article, it is a requirement of our agreements (licences) with publishers that students log in and access resources themselves.

What about printed materials?

Printed materials (books, journals, newspapers, maps, etc.) are subject to copyright in the same way as digital items, even if you have purchased them yourself.  For example, it would be an infringement of copyright to scan a book you have purchased and share it with other students: owning the physical book does not give you ownership of the content or the right to distribute it.

You should not assume that just because you are not profiting from such an activity it is legal or permitted; it still deprives authors and publishers of sales.