Websites and electronic information

Managing electronic information

The increase in the use of Information in electronic form has transformed the way people work in recent years. Electronic information is more accessible, faster and easier to obtain, manipulate, copy and distribute thus saving a lot of time, money and paper! Unfortunately, this also increases the possibility of copyright violations, sometimes without the offender even realising.

Like information on paper, the copyright applies to content: whether it is in physical or electronic form is irrelevant. Copyright duration of the material will be dictated by its content. For example, text will be treated as literary works, images as artistic works etc.

Unless you have the express permission of the copyright owner or otherwise, you must not:

  • Put copyright material on the internet, intranet or networked drives as this would be categorised as unauthorised distribution.
  • Carry out activities such as peer to peer file sharing or electronic transmissions that are likely to promote or lead to infringement in copyright material.
  • Transfer copyright material onto alternative media such as CDs and DVDs.

Information on the web

There exists a common misconception that all material on the internet is copyright free. In actual fact, the complete opposite is true. Though the precise terms for the use of material over the internet is still considerably complex, given the varied nature, sources and authorship of the material published, the concept of copyright nevertheless applies.

When viewing material on web pages, you must assume that all the material you view and use on websites is subject to copyright and so unless there is an explicit statement to say otherwise, if you wish to use (i.e. download or copy) any copyright material then the easiest way is to contact the copyright holder of the website.

The copyright owner of a website may be the author, the publisher or the employing organisation. You must also be aware that the literary aspect, images, sounds recordings and video clips on a particular page may all have separate copyright owners, so you may need to contact each owner separately.


Computer programs are dealt in a similar way to literary works and copyright generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.

Computer software is governed by the Copyright (Computer Programs) Regulations 1992. General rules imposed on the copyright aspects of software include:

  • No copying of the software without the copyright holder's permission, with the exception of backup copies.
  • A single copy of the software may be produced for backup purposes. However once the licence of the software expires or the software is disposed of, the backup must also be destroyed.
  • The software or code must not be modified or adapted without the copyright holder's permission.
  • Software programs must not be rented or hired out without the copyright holder's permission.

Restrictions on software vary from program to program and are usually specified in the licensing agreement. If you are unsure or have any queries about any particular software that the University provides, please contact the ILS Compliance Team.


Databases are defined as a collection of independent works, data or other materials which are arranged in a systematic or methodical way and can be individually accessed by electronic or other means. Thus databases need not necessarily be electronic. Examples of databases are: telephone/email directories, mailing lists and catalogues

Databases may be subject to copyright and another right called the database right. It must be noted that the rights primarily concern the construction and the arrangement of databases and not the individual contents which may or may not be protected separately in their own right.

Copyright of databases

Databases are subject to copyright only when the database is judged to be "a work of personal intellectual activity" and its selection or arrangement of contents must be original. Copyright for databases is dealt with similarly to literary works and lasts for 70 years after the death of the author.

If a database is subject to copyright, in addition to the general rights of the author, fair dealing for research and private study also applies, providing the source is acknowledged

Database Right

Similarly, only databases which have been "assembled as a result of substantial investment in selecting, verifying and/or presenting the contents" will qualify for the database right.

The main objective of database right is to provide protection to the individual who invested in selecting and compiling the data. Database right gives the owner of the database right to prevent the extraction or re-utilisation of all or a substantial part of the contents of the database.

Database right, like copyright is an automatic right but does not last as long. Database rights lasts for 15 years from the end of the year in which the database was completed or made public (if published). If the database undergoes any substantial development, for example, it is significantly altered or updated, and then the 15 year database right period will begin again.

Extraction is defined as 'permanent or temporary transfer of the contents to another medium by any means or in any form', while re-utilisation is defined as "making the contents available to the public by any means".

Database right does not give the holder exclusive control over the information in the database. However, it does give the holder rights to the way the facts have been arranged and made available.

What you are allowed to do

  • Substantial amounts of the information from the database may be used for non-commercial research, private study or educational instruction purposes and the source is acknowledged.
  • Insubstantial amounts of information from the database may be re-utilised and extracted providing its purpose is for non-commercial research or private study.

What you are not allowed to do

  • Use the database for commercial purposes, unless the database right holder has given permission.