British Report on Copyright and the Humanities

A month ago the British Academy, a counterpart to science’s Royal Academy, published a report on Copyright and Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences. After a serious and detailed investigation, the researchers present 10 recommendations, précised here:

  1. Copyright policy and authors themselves must recognise that the interests of academic authors do not always coincide with those of the publishers who undertake to exploit their works.
  2. Copyright must therefore provide reasonably broad and practically effective exemptions for research and private study and for criticism or review.
  3. The exception for research and private study under the 1988 Copyright Act recently narrowed in compliance with the EU Information Society Directive, should be given a generous interpretation.
  4. The exemption for non-commercial research and private study should apply equally to sound recordings, films and broadcasts.
  5. The exception for criticism and review should apply with reasonable breadth, as has been laid down in recent UK court decisions.
  6. Where material has previously been published or made available to the public, fair dealing for purposes of research and of criticism or review should apply to that material.
  7. Where a so-called ‘orphan work’ has no author or publisher who can be identified by reasonable search, others should be free to produce derivative works from that work.
  8. Rights holders should not generally be able to circumvent the objectives of the exemptions to the copyright act by contract or through the use of technology.
  9. Both public authorities and academic communities should monitor carefully the assertion of database rights and the charges made for access to database contents in order to ensure that this right does not become a growing impediment to scholarship.
  10. The UK government should consider extending the power of the Copyright Tribunal to require the grant of licences, and to impose reasonable terms in them, where licences are required for academic publication and presentation.

If copyright’s your thing, you might be interested as well in the guidelines that were developed to help researchers work in and around British copyright law. Although it’s clearly stated not to be a statement of the law, it comes darn close.


  1. Note that Professor W R Cornish, FBA, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Cambridge was on the group. Instant IP credibility.