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Information: Using Material from a Published Edition


The following principles should be considered when seeking to use material taken from a published edition.

The copyright owner’s consent is required before a reproduction of a copyright protected work may legally be made.

At least two types of copyright apply to a published version of a literary work. These are:

  • the copyright in the literary work itself;
  • and the copyright in the typographical arrangement of the published edition.

As well as copyright in the text (the literary work) and in the published edition the copyright in other underlying works e.g. illustrations, diagrams and photographs accompanying the text should be considered.

Copyright in the literary work

Copyright protection applies to all original literary works and the author is normally the first owner of copyright in their work, unless the work was created by an employee during the course of their employment.

Copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. If the author has been dead for more than 70 years the work may be used freely otherwise it is likely to be protected by copyright.

Copyright in the typographical arrangement of a published edition

Copyright in the typographical arrangement of a published edition is vested in the publisher.

Such copyright lasts for 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.

Copyright in illustrations, diagrams and photographs lasts for the life of the artist plus 70 years.

Where a simple reference is made to a work, permission is not needed as this does not involve any form of reproduction.

The Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 prohibits the reproduction of a copyright work either in whole or in substantial part (“substantial” in this context refers to the quality of the extract as much as to the quantity). The law allows reproduction without the copyright owner’s consent only if the amount reproduced does not represent a substantial part of the whole work.

In addition there are certain circumstances in which a work or part of a work may be reproduced without first obtaining permission. In the case of literary works extracts are normally reasonably brief, i.e. in the form of quotes. These are:

    • for the purpose of non-commercial research and private study
    • for the purpose of criticism and review
    • for the purpose of instruction or examination
    • for anthologies for educational use.

These sections of the Act should be interpreted very carefully as the circumstances in which they apply are narrowly drawn and an acknowledgement of the copyright owner should always be included.

If in doubt, seek the permission of the copyright owner before making a copy of a work or any part of it.


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