This summary is intended for library staff working in NHS library services in England (including in university libraries with contracts to provide library services to NHS organisations).

Please note that this information is intended for guidance only and is not a substitute for either the CLA Licence or UK copyright legislation.

If you have any queries or suggestions for improving the guidance, please contact the NHS Copyright First Responders via [email protected].

Legislation and licences 

Copyright legislation allows small amounts of copying of copyright work for specific purposes, including library privilege. Copyright licences permit additional copying, over and above what is allowed under legislation.  

The Department of Health has purchased a Copyright Licence Plus for the NHS in England which should cover the majority of the copying you will need to do from journals and books, both for your service users and other NHS-funded libraries.

However, it is also useful to be able to fall back on copying permitted under the Copyright Act and Library Privilege, so this is also included below.  

The CLA Licence Plus for the NHS in England 

Who does the licence cover?  

The CLA Licence adopts a broad and inclusive definition of the ‘NHS in England’, treating it as a single large organisation. It covers everyone working for or and contracted by NHS and other organisations created under the Health & Social Care Act 2012.

This includes public health staff employed by local authorities, hospice staff, the staff of all Department of Health arms' length bodies and special health authorities, as well as students on placement, university staff contracted to work for the NHS, and non-NHS librarians who provide services to NHS staff.  

The ‘Plus’ part of the Licence means that staff working for NHS ‘collaboration partners' (non-NHS organisations with their own CLA Licence who need to share copies with NHS staff as part of collaboration projects) are also covered. There is more information about this in the FAQs

The Licence also extends to patients, and the carers or guardians of patients, who may receive paper or digital copies for their personal use. See the FAQs

What can be copied under the Licence?  

The Licence covers almost all books, journals and magazines owned by (i.e. purchased by, or subscribed to by) any organisation within the NHS in England.

A small number of books and journals are excluded from the Licence, and some works published outside the UK may not be copied digitally. Items without ISBNs or ISSNs are not covered by the Licence.

The best way to check whether a publication is covered is via the CLA's ‘Check Permissions’ tool at https://www.cla.co.uk/ (select the Public Sector Licence option from the drop-down list). 

If a journal or book has been donated to your library, it may be regarded as being owned by the NHS. 

How much can be copied under the licence and how can copies be stored? 

  • You may copy two articles from a single issue of a journal (or several articles from an issue if on the same theme), or up to one chapter or 5% of a book (whichever is greater)
  • Within these ‘extent limits’ there is no restriction on the number of copies that may be made i.e. multiple copies and ‘copies of copies' are allowed
  • Single digital and paper copies may be made for patients and carers
  • Scanned and digital copies may be stored on an intranet or secure network, but not within an indexed and searchable centralised database

Declarations and statements  

Copyright declarations are not needed but use statement 1 when supplying copies.

The Copyright Act and Library Privilege 

Where copies cannot be supplied under the CLA Licence (e.g. because your user and/or the requested item is not covered by the CLA Licence) and are required for non-commercial research or private study, you may obtain or make copies under the ‘Library Privilege' terms of the Copyright Act.  

Since 2014, you have been able to make Library Privilege copies for other not-for-profit libraries from any copyright work, including e-journals and works not covered by the CLA Licence. For Library Privilege: 

  • You may only copy one article from an issue of a journal, or a ‘reasonable' proportion of any other published work. ‘Reasonable’ isn’t defined but up to 5% or one chapter of a book (whichever is greater) is typically regarded as reasonable.  
  • The requester must provide a declaration in writing to say that they have not previously been supplied with a copy, that the copy is required for non-commercial research or private study, that they won't supply the copy to anyone else, and that as far as they know, no one else is going to be asking for the same copy for the same purpose at the same time. This declaration does not have to be signed and can be sent electronically, so for instance the requester could type their name or tick a check box to confirm agreement.  
  • You may supply the copy digitally, but the individual receiving it may only store it digitally for their own personal use i.e. they may not put it on a shared drive or intranet
  • Library Privilege copies may not be further copied or shared
  • Use statement 2 when supplying Library Privilege copies

Copyright Fee Paid (CFP) copies 

Where copies cannot be supplied under the CLA Licence and a Library Privilege copy is inappropriate (e.g. because it is required not just for private study and needs to be shared) or unavailable (e.g. because the British Library cannot supply a Library Privilege copy for copyright reasons), then you may obtain a Copyright Fee Paid (CFP) copy.

CFP copies may be copied under the terms of the CLA Licence Plus. A limited allocation of CFP copies is included with the CLA Licence Plus: see the FAQs

A note about publishers’ licences 

Electronic databases and journals are typically licensed for access by those who work for specific organisations.

Library staff may make copies for everyone covered by these licences, although typically you would provide users with links to enable their own direct access.

Beyond this, publisher licences are restrictive in terms of the copying that is allowed. However, as above, you can probably make copies from e-journals under the CLA Licence (use the CLA Check Permissions tool at https://www.cla.co.uk/), and failing that, you may make Library Privilege copies for another not-for-profit library or for an individual from any copyright work.

Library Privilege cannot be overridden by a publisher's contract.   

Professional judgement and common sense 

Copyright is about respecting the rights of those who have created or own the material we wish to share.

Our job is to source and supply copies, quickly and with minimum bureaucracy, to staff in the NHS working directly and indirectly to improve the quality of patient care. The key points to remember are: 

  • always ensure that the source of the copies you supply is clearly identified so that it can be properly acknowledged
  • do your best to ensure that service users know what they can/cannot do with the copies you supply
  • the extent of copying must not directly or indirectly substitute for the purchase of original material

Page last reviewed: 29 September 2021