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Copyright for NHS Staff

What you need to know to stay legal


Copyright protects works created through intellectual effort. The law attempts to balance the interests of the works' creators with the right of the public to share in intellectual and cultural advancement.

The "works" in question can take many different forms: books, articles, photographs, films/videos, sound recordings, artistic works, music, computer programs and typographical arrangements. Databases are also covered, although "database rights" supplement law in this area.

Copyright Creation

Copyright is automatic at the point of creation: there is no need for a work to carry a copyright symbol (©) for it to be covered by copyright law. Copyright lasts from 25 to 70 years depending on the type.

Copyright in the UK is defined by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

This website constitutes guidance only and may not be taken as legal advice.

CLA Agreement with the NHS


Under the terms of the CLA Agreement with the NHS, you may:


Journals, or other serial publications

An article can be considered to be a single item in the publication, so will include editorials, letters and contents pages. For information on copying articles for Journal Clubs, please refer to the section below.

Theses and dissertations

You may NOT copy from theses or dissertations unless you have the express permission of the author.

Conference proceedings

You may copy one article from the proceedings of a single conference.

Illustrations / photographs

Illustrations that are part of a written work (e.g. diagram in an article) may be copied, but illustrations on their own may not be copied (unless out of copyright).

Photographs may be copied if the copy is of obviously lower quality than the original, or is clearly marked to indicate that it is a copy.

Crown / HMSO publications

You may make a single copy of Acts of Parliament, Statutory Instruments, Parliamentary discussions on Hansard or press releases from Government departments or agencies.

Videos / DVDs

You may NOT copy any part of a commercially produced video or DVD of any description.


Do not assume that material openly available on the Internet is free from copyright. Unless there is explicit permission on a website to save, print or otherwise reproduce content from its pages, you must not do so without first obtaining the consent of the copyright owner.

Electronic databases


Every database, even if part of the National Core Content (accessible from NHS Evidence with an NHS Athens username and password), will have its own licence with individual terms and conditions for use.

Journal Clubs

Under the current NHS Copyright Licence, you can:

You are responsible for your actions with regards copyright, therefore, if you are in any doubt, ask.

If you have any further questions about copyright,
please contact a member of the library staff.