Can I copy an item and include it in my thesis or publication?


If the item in question is within the public domain, you may copy as much of it as you like for any purpose – commercial or otherwise.

If the material remains within copyright then you may need to contact the relevant rights holder(s) for permission or a licence to copy, adapt and or reproduce the content you want to work with.

Alternatively, within UK copyright law there are several provisions, known as “exceptions to copyright” which, subject to certain restrictions, permit the copying of limited amounts of a protected work even in the absence of the rights holder’s permission.

A selection of these exceptions are often relied upon in an educational or scholarly context and in certain cases, specifically cater to the needs of those involved in non-commercial research and private study. Among the most frequently referred to are those relating to:

  • Private study and non-commercial research and;
  • Criticism, review [quotation] and reporting current events.

A more comprehensive overview of the exceptions to copyright, the circumstances in which they could be relevant and the terms and conditions they place upon you, can be found here.

It is important to remember that you will need to seek the British Library’s permission to commercially reproduce any copies of our collection items. This applies even where you have already obtained permission from rights holders or where the material you have copied is in the public domain. This requirement also applies where you have included material within a thesis which is to be deposited within an online academic repository, even though this activity is generally non-commercial in nature.

You can do this by contacting our Permissions Team at the following email address:


  • Last Updated Jan 15, 2024
  • Views 17
  • Answered By Lina Nemanyte

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