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Subject Guides

Copyright: a Practical Guide

Course reading

Making copies for students

The University of York holds the Copyright Licensing Agency's HE Licence, which entitles staff to create and distribute print or digital copies of extracts from licensed publications, for course reading associated with a specific module.  Our licence fee is used by the CLA to pay royalties to publishers and authors.

The Library offers a Digitisation Service for module leaders and tutors -  staff will create a licensed digital copy for you,  and link it to your reading list on Yorkshare.  You may tag any reference on your reading list with a Digitisation Request, and staff will ensure it complies with CLA Licence terms:

  • A publication sourced from the Library's print or online collections
  • Max. 1 chapter from a book, or 1 essay (max. 10 pages) from an anthology
  • Max. 1 journal article per issue
  • Or 10% of the total pages, if greater
  • CLA coversheet attached
  • Distributed on a secure network, restricted to students registered on the module 
  • Reported annually to the CLA.

If your request relates to a publication which isn't stocked by the Library, staff will purchase a digital copy of the extract required, with any copyright fee paid.

Note that creating a link to a publisher or author's website does not infringe copyright, hence is not subject to CLA terms and conditions.  Lecturers and tutors can edit their Yorkshare Reading List to add links to e-books, e-journal articles and other web-based reading material.

Your right as a lecturer or tutor to share your own published work with your students will depend on the terms of your agreement with your publisher.  If in doubt, simply add the reference to your reading list in the usual way, and request a copyright-cleared digital copy (see above).  

If your work is unpublished, be mindful that by sharing your material with students, you may put at risk your prospects for securing an agreement to publish in future.  Ensure that your students appreciate that they should not make the work visible outside Yorkshare.

When not to copy


Not every publisher endorses the CLA to collect royalties on their behalf.  You can search the CLA's database of book and journal titles/ISBNs to establish whether the work you want to copy is covered:

If the work you want to copy is unlicensed by the CLA, the Library offers a Permissions Clearance service: the Reading List team will endeavour to contact the rights-holder or publisher to request permission to make a digital copy of the extract you require.  Any fee will be covered by the Library for as long as funds are available.

Accessible formats

Digital copies made by the Library are fully machine readable for use with accessibility software.  If specific students on your module need to have printed texts converted into an accessible format, please indicate on your reading list so that the Library can take the necessary steps.

Accessibility information for Library users

Sheet music

Musical scores are not covered by the CLA Licence.  Copyright law classes them as 'artistic works', protected by copyright until 70 years after the death of the composer.  A new edition of the score acquires 'typographical' copyright protection for a further 25 years; editorial text and annotations (e.g. fingering, breathing marks) may be protected as a literary or artistic work.

The Music Publishers' Association has issued a Code of Fair Practice for copying sheet music (2016):

Bona fide students or teachers, whether they are in an educational establishment or not, may without application to the copyright owner make copies of short excerpts of musical works provided that they are for study only (not performance).  Copying whole movements or whole works is expressly forbidden under this permission. Each copy must be marked with the following: ‘Copy for study only’.