Changes to UK copyright exceptions

May 2014

Under current copyright law, the owner of a copyright work is entitled to permit or prohibit copying of the work, performing the work in public, issuing copies of the work, communicating the work to the public (e.g. over the internet), and other acts.

However, there are certain exceptions to copyright which permit third parties to do certain acts without infringing copyright in a work.

The government has introduced five statutory instruments that amend the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 by expanding the freedoms in copyright law that allow third parties to use copyright works for a variety of economically and socially valuable purposes without permission from copyright owners.  All five statutory instruments were expected to come into force on 1 June 2014.  However, IP Minister Lord Younger has confirmed that Parliamentary debate on exceptions for Private Use and Parody will not take place until later, so it is unlikely that the 1 June date will be met for these exceptions. 

We have provided a summary of these new exceptions below.

Personal copying for private use

  • A new exception allows individuals to copy media they own, such as CDs or eBooks from one medium or device to another (including any type of personal storage) for their own private use. To use this exception an individual must have lawfully acquired a copy of a work such as a book, film or music on a permanent basis. They can only make copies for their private use and for non-commercial ends, and cannot give those copies to other people (except with the copyright owner’s consent).
  • However, this will not restrict copyright owners from using technology measures to restrict copying although consumers can appeal to the Secretary of State to give them access if certain criteria are shown.
  • In common with most of the exceptions covered by the instruments, to the extent that any term of a contract seeks to prevent or restrict the making of a personal copy in accordance with this exception, that term will be unenforceable.

Research and private study

  • There already exists an exception for research and private study but this has now been extended so that the scope of the current exception includes all copyright works, including sound recordings, films and broadcasts and includes copies provided to users by libraries. These exceptions remain limited by a requirement for fair dealing by an individual and to copying a reasonable proportion of a work by a librarian supplying a copy to an individual.
  • Individuals are still required to declare in writing that they will only use library work for non-commercial research or private study but this can now be submitted electronically.
  • Educational and cultural institutions can now make works available for research or private study via dedicated terminals on their premises.

Archiving and preservation in cultural institutions

  • There already exists an exception to allow libraries and archives to make copies of books in order to preserve them, without infringing copyright. This exception has now been extended to apply to all types of media including artistic works, sound recordings and films and to also apply to museums and galleries. However there remains the requirement that the exception only applies when it is not reasonably practicable to purchase a replacement copy.
  • Libraries are also now allowed to make and supply copies of all types of published work (previously this was limited) for the benefit of other libraries, but as before, only when it is not possible to ascertain the name or address of a person entitled to authorise the making of the copy.
  • The law allowing archiving of broadcasts and folksongs has also been simplified, removing the requirement for new legislation each time an archive wishes to take advantage of this exception.

Text and data analysis for non-commercial research

  • A new exception allows UK researchers carrying out non-commercial research to use text and data mining technologies without risking copyright infringement. Where a person already has lawful access to read any copyright material, they will not have to obtain additional permission from rights holders in order to copy the work for text and data mining for non-commercial research. However, use should still be accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement.


  • There already exists an exception to allow teachers to copy a small amount of material where necessary to illustrate a point. However currently this only permits copying by hand. This exception has now been replaced to include activities using modern technology as long as the work is used to illustrate a teaching point, the use of the work is not for a commercial purpose and the use is fair.
  • Education establishments are currently permitted to record broadcasts for educational purposes and to play those recordings before an audience within the school premises. This has now been updated to extend the exception to virtual classrooms, making it easier for teachers to use distance learning technology.
  • Educational establishments are also currently permitted to make multiple copies of passages from works made using a photocopier or computer. This exception has now been updated to apply to all types of work and the copying limit is raised from 1% to 5% of work per annum and teachers are allowed to distribute copies via secure virtue learning environments


  • The current exception allowing fair quotations of extracts from copyright works for the purpose of criticism or review has been broadened to permit quotation from a work not only for the purpose of criticism or review, but for any purpose (such as in academic citation or examination papers), as long as it is a “fair dealing”.

Caricature, Parody or Pastiche

  • A new exception creates a limited basis on which caricature, parody and pastiche may be practised, to the extent that the use is “fair dealing”


  • A new exception makes it possible to copy any type of copyright work for the benefit of people with any impairment, if and to the extent that impairment prevents them from accessing a copyright work. Previously this exception was limited to only some types of work and some types of impairment.
  • It also allows individual disabled people to make a copy of a work for their own personal use, and allows charities and educational establishments to make accessible-format copies and issue them to disabled people more widely.

Public Administration

  • Where material is already available for public inspection through some statutory mechanism or unpublished material which has been communicated to the Crown in the course of public business, this can now be made available to the public online. However, it will not apply to material which the copyright owner has made available on a commercial basis.

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