Copyright Information

Copyright Guidance

It is important that copyright procedures are adhered to on all hospital wards and in all departments as it is statute law and spot checks for copyright infringement have in the past been made by the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA).  Copyright is one of the main types of intellectual property. Intellectual property allows a person to own things they create in the same way as something physical can be owned. It is the right to prevent others copying or reproducing someone's work.

The main legislation dealing with copyright in the United Kingdom is the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988 (see

The main categories of works currently protected by copyright law in the UK include:

  • original literary works such as novels or poems, tables or lists and computer programs
  • original dramatic works such as dance or mime
  • original musical works, ie the musical notes themselves
  • original artistic works such as graphic works (paintings, drawings etc), photographs and sculptures
  • sound recordings
  • films
  • broadcasts
  • typographical arrangements (ie the layout or actual appearance) of published editions
The NHS in England has a licence with the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd (CLA) which grants certain permissions in terms of what staff may photocopy. You should have a poster on display in your department near your photocopier giving guidelines. The poster is available for download at the bottom of this page.

The licence allows the copying of extracts from books, journals and periodicals published in print and from selected digital publications subject to certain terms and conditions. Copies may be made from publications owned or subscribed to, and from articles or press cuttings provided by licenced external suppliers (eg a public relations or press cuttings agency or the British Library) where a copyright fee has been paid. The licence does not permit you to make copies which directly or indirectly substitute of the purchase of an original published edition.

The licence covers:

  • Photocopying
  • Scanning
  • Copying of digital content eg PDFs from electronic subscriptions or scanned articles circulated by email – that is, digital-to-digital, digital-to-print and print-to-digital-to-print.

How much can be copied?

On each occasion you may copy a single chapter of a book, up to two articles from a periodical or up to 5% of a publication, whichever is the greater.  Where a periodical issue is dedicated to a particular theme any number of articles dealing with that theme may be copied. (*These permissions do not apply when scanning or making Digital Copies of  works published in the USA).

What can I use copies for?

  • To share with colleagues at meetings or briefings
  • For internal training purposes, eg journal clubs, nurse teaching sessions, students on placement etc where no payment is involved
  • Health & Safety or Environmental awareness
  • For research and development
  • For PR or media relations

A patient or care may receive a single paper copy of content relevant to their treatment.

Who can make and receive copies?

Copies may be made for internal NHS information purposes as follows:

Paper copies

All staff, general practitioners employed by or contracted to the NHS, individuals providing consultancy services to the NHS and members of the public known as ‘non-executive members’ who sit on a Designated Committee can make and receive copies.

Digital Copies

As above, provided that these individuals are permitted by the NHS to have access to the NHSnet or other internal email system via a secure login process which verifies their authority. In addition, patients and carers or guardians of patients may also be provided with a single Paper Copy in connection with their treatment and/or condition.

Digital publications

Copying of electronic publications is restricted to publications published by Participating Digital Material Publishers. For full details please visit

International publications

CLA has agreements with similar agencies in most major overseas territories enabling International publications and content to be copied under the CLA Licence. For full details of these overseas agencies and the countries that are covered please visit

Title Search

The easiest way to check what can be copied is to use CLA’s Title Search. NHS employees should select ‘Public Administration’ or use


Storage of copied material

  • Authorised persons may store Digital Copies to their local hard drives or personal server space.
  • Authorised persons may store individual licensed copies on the hospital’s intranet for a period of up to 30 days. Copies may also be held for longer in a project or product based store provided it is only accessed by users within the same work group.


Copyright and Journal Article Requests

The Library Photocopy Request for (used for journal article requests) incorporates a copyright declaration which should be completed and signed or digitally acknowledged before submitting your request.  This ensures that the library is able to source your request as possible by checking the holdings of a range of both NHS and external sources.  If you have submitted a photocopy request without completing a copyright declaration (eg via email or telephone), the library staff will advise you as to whether it is necessary for you to complete a copyright declaration retrospectively, on receipt of the photocopy being supplied.

If you wish to obtain full text of an article you can complete an online article request form . Alternatively, journal article request forms are available in the library, or you can print a copy here. Completed forms can be submitted to the library by post or in person. See the library webpages for further details

Further Copyright legislation

For instances where the NHS Copyright licence is not applicable it is worth looking to the Statutory Provisions of the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act:

  • Fair Dealing
  • Library and Archive Privilege
  • Other Educational Exemptions

Please contact the  Library if you require further guidance on making copies under these statutory provisions.


For a fuller explanation on what is covered and details of exclusions of the CLA licence please click on the following links for guidance:

NHS England copying guidelines Jan 2016

NHS England licence