Library Services


Copyright Quiz

Test your knowledge of copyright by taking our quiz. How did you do?


Are blog posts protected by copyright and how about a tweet?

You've just written a new post on your personal blog, and composed your first tweet. Does copyright law protect them?

Reveal the answer

Yes. If it's your original work your blog post would certainly be protected by copyright. In terms of copyright law it is a "literary work" and protection does not depend on achieving a level of literary quality! Material posted in social media or on websites is subject to copyright just as much as print publications. In principle even a tweet could be protected depending on its originality.


Can I reuse a photograph I found on the internet in my PhD thesis?

A quick Google search has found a photo that will really help the visual appeal of your thesis. But is it ok to use?

Reveal the answer

No, not without being sure of its copyright status. If you are able to obtain permission from the copyright owner that would be fine. If the photograph is accompanied by licence information which allows reuse, such as a Creative Commons licence then it may be Ok to insert it in your thesis, but you will still need to conform to the terms of the licence, making sure that the photographer is acknowledged correctly for example. You need to consider the further use you may make of your thesis to ensure that that is also covered by the licence or permission.

Photo icon by www.designbolts.com


You want to organise a student production of a play by a contemporary writer: Will you need permission from the copyright owner?

It is not a commercial production and I am sure the author will be intrigued by my reinterpretation of her work. Do I really need permission?

Reveal the answer

Yes. Dramatic performances are one of the activities which are restricted by copyright. In the case of a living author it is often relatively easy to obtain permission for a student production. If you are planning to adapt the author's work then you also need to make that clear when seeking permission. The copyright owner (usually the author) has the right to veto adaptations and understandably this can be an area of great concern to authors. If you want to produce an older work which is already out of copyright then no permission is required, but you need to ensure that this is really the case. No problems with Shakespeare of course!


Elvis Presley recorded "Heartbreak Hotel" in 1956. When does the copyright in the recording expire?

The duration of copyright in recordings was extended as a result of EU legislation in 2013 after extensive campaigning by well-known recording artists.

Reveal the answer

Copyright in musical recordings which have been released ("published" as it is termed in the legislation) lasts for 70 years after the year of release. So in this case the copyright expires at the end of 2026. If the recording had never been released then the copyright would expire 50 years after the year in which it was made. There are separate rights in the music and the lyrics and they will usually last longer than the copyright in the recording itself.


The first copyright act in the UK is known as "the Statute of Anne". In which year did it come into force? How long did copyright protection last under this statute?

The duration of copyright has been extended considerably since the first copyright act along with the growing commercial value of copyright.

Reveal the answer

"The Statute of Anne" came into force in April 1710. The initial copyright term for books was 14 years, renewable for a further 14 years.


You have produced a striking image of a chemical reaction in the course of your PhD research using a specialised photographic technique. Do you own copyright in the image?

The image will be classed as an "artist work" in terms of copyright legislation along with paintings, sculptures and art installations among other creations.

Reveal the answer

Yes, probably: Your image would certainly be protected by copyright. The copyright belongs to you unless special considerations apply: For example your research might be part of a larger externally funded project and the funder may have a claim to any intellectual property which arises from the research, including copyright. However it more likely that the copyright belongs to you. If you collaborated with someone else in creating the image you may be joint owners.


The author George Orwell died on 21 January 1950. When will his published work such as "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen eighty-four" come out of copyright?

Will they have come out of copyright before "nineteen eighty-four" and if not, when does the copyright expire?

Reveal the answer

The usual term of copyright in literary and artistic works is calculated by adding 70 years to the year in which the author dies. 1950 plus 70 years takes us to 2020. Therefore Orwell's published works come out of copyright in January 2021.


What does the Creative Commons "CC BY-ND" licence prevent you from doing with the licensed material which would be permitted by the "CC BY" licence?

If you are unfamiliar with CC licences feel free to look at the Creative Commons website. It offers a convenient way of licensing online content for reuse by others.

Reveal the answer

You may reproduce the material for either commercial or non-commercial purposes as long as you comply with the other terms of the licence. "ND" stands for "no derivatives" and means that you are not permitted to change or amend the material covered by the CC BY-ND licence in any way. You may reproduce it only in its original form. Derivative versions such as mash-ups or translations would be permitted under the "CC BY" licence for example.

CC BY-ND logo courtesy of Creative Commons.


The "Angel of the North" by Sir Antony Gormley, is a giant piece of outdoor sculpture. If I take a photograph and then post the photograph on the internet, am I infringing copyright in the sculpture?

Sculpture is protected by copyright as an "artistic work". Since Sir Antony Gormley is a contemporary artist his work will certainly be protected. So is my photograph infringing?

Reveal the answer

No. If I were to take photographs of pieces by Gormley in a gallery or a private collection without permission then that would be copyright infringement. However in the UK there is an exception to copyright which allows photography and filming of sculptures which are "permanently situated in a public place or in premises open to the public…" So in this particular example I would not be infringing copyright since the sculpture is situated in a public place.


Our archive holds the unpublished notebooks of a well-known scientist who died in the 1950s. Are we able to publish the diaries on our website?

Since our archive owns the notebooks, does it follow that we also own the copyright in those notebooks?

Reveal the answer

Ownership of the physical notebooks and ownership of the copyright are two different things. Unless you have documentation to prove the copyright was transferred to your archive you have to assume it is owned by someone else. Under a quirk of UK law the copyright in the unpublished works of an author who died before 1969 remain in copyright until the end of 2039. Initially the copyright would have belonged to the author. Copyright can be inherited like other types of property so you may need to start searching for surviving members of the scientist's family to request permission.