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Copyright is a property right

Copyright law uses a property metaphor, and laws across the world, recognise 'ownership of a copyright’ akin to ownership of a house and garden.

The owner of a house restricts its entry, lease, and redecorations.

Whereas a copyright owner fences off their code, essays, reports, books, illustrations, paintings, photos etc. from further:

  • copying and distribution online, on paper and other material formats
  • performance
  • and other restricted acts +

Copyright legislation is intended to give the copyright owner a property through which they can earn an income, by selling an essay, or leasing their music to a film, or performing a script.

Some people earn an income from their artistic work, this is explained on theCopyrightUser website.

Metaphoric copyright fences also have proverbial gates. These gates allow you to make certain uses of a work without the requirement to first obtain permission. This gate is referred to as an Exception. 

Exceptions to copyright

  • Lecture notes, worksheets, exams, presentations, please read our Teaching FAQs.

Fair use gives some exceptions to the requirement to purchase the activity of copying, and the other restricted acts. Anyone doing personal research and study, has a right to copy works for their personal use, but not to distribute those works.

To distribute works, there is a need to purchase, or licence, the right to distribute. The University has purchased the CLA (Copyright Licencing Authority) blanket coverage so our lecturers can share readings with our students. Librarians will supply copies of chapters, articles, and other readings to teachers, under the terms of this license.

When students run into problems

The problem is sharing the things you copy, to an audience outside the University's communities.

Databases, like WGSN, track their photos and articles. Publishers' algorithms will survey the internet for copies of the digital content they publish, to track posts of their content on students' social media. 

This is why it's much better to link to materials in databases, than download and upload the database content.

When algorithms flag a post, such as an Insta post of WGSN's Fall Fashion Trend, the company then contacts: instagram, the student, and the University. WGSN will threaten legal action and demand that posts be taken down. This will also happen with science-based resources, such as the British National Formulary.

There are lawful ways to repost on social media, this guide explains how to publish legal images, texts, and sounds for your portfolios.

Otherwise, copyright is automatic and places an "all rights are reserved" fence around an article, chapter, illustration, song, recording, photograph, Style Sheet -- almost anything in a 'fixed' form. There doesn't have to be a copyright symbol © in order for something to be "all rights reserved" copyright. Assume a piece of music, a text, a photograph etc., is fully copyright protected unless stated otherwise, for example by a permissive Creative Commons license

Copyright at University

Student Rights

Undergraduate students, and students on taught masters, own their IP including their copyright as outlined in the Student Contract in the Main Terms and Conditions.

All the articles, reports, images, films, radio programmes etc. in our Online Library can be copied for personal use, but are still the property of their publishers. Unless otherwise stated in the Terms and Conditions of these items, students would require permission from the publishers to share the items to an audience wider than their lecturers and fellow students.

Understand how to publish legal images, texts, and sounds for your portfolios.

Researcher Rights


The University of Brighton's IP office publishes policies for Researchers. Research students often waive their IP except for the copyright in their thesis. 

Scholarly journals expect contributors to obtain relevant permissions when using copyrighted material for publication. 

There are exceptions to copyright law which permit some copying and sharing of works when undertaking research. When invoking an exception to copyright it is important to use the work as a 'fair and honest minded' person would use the work, also known as 'being sensible'. This concept is understood as 'fair dealing ' in UK copyright law.

The Intellectual Property Office publish a guide to exceptions for research purposes which explains when the exceptions can apply to your use of a copyright work.

Lecturer Rights

The  University has this formal IP policy which outlines where lecturer retain their rights in their materials, and where the University claims ownership of work produced by lecturers during the course of employment. Further guidance is available from the Contracts and Intellectual Property Office.

  • Lecture notes, worksheets, exams, presentations, please read our Teaching FAQs.

Rights for Persons with Disabilities

The legislation regarding copying for persons with disabilities can be found on the UK Government website.

It is legal for the University of Brighton to make copies of materials in any format and to adjust them, so they are suitable for students or staff who have neuroatypical conditions, which require format shifts for access to works i.e. print to digital. This includes anyone with any type of disability. Contract terms will not override the exception. However this exception will only apply where an accessible copy is not available commercially at a reasonable cost.

For example, you can now subtitle a film, however if there is an accessible version available to purchase, you must purchase the subtitled film. If you wish to prepare copies for staff or students with disability, please contact for further advice.

Author Rights

"When you decide to publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal, you own the full copyrights to that article. If you publish in an open access journal, you retain your full copyrights. However, if you choose to publish in a traditional subscription access journal, you will be required to sign a form transferring some – or all – of your copyrights to that publisher."

Practical guidance including addendums for contracts is available on the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) website

NEW Request a Copyright Workshop



Would your department, team, or student group like a talk or workshop about copyright? Information Services works with groups of all sizes and disciplines to remix our core copyright workshops and activities for their needs. Take a look at our Workshops for our regular teaching: Digital Media and Copyright; Copyright and Education; Basics of Copyright.

Page owner: Lisa Redlinski