What are the copyright issues in providing copies of research output in support of a REF submission?


Under the terms of the CLA Higher Education Licence an institution can provide copies of Licensed Material to Authorised Persons.

‘Authorised Persons’ includes ‘persons engaged in inspections for the Quality Assurance Agency or a Research Excellence Framework...’ (REF).  

This means that paper or digital copies of Licensed Material can be provided to REF auditors.

The CLA has signed an agreement with HEFCE regarding the REF, and the CLA HE Licence User Guidelines provide on page 13 as follows:

‘If your institution wishes to make copies (paper or digital) and then submit them to the REF, this is covered by CLA’s agreement with HEFCE; you can copy as much as is necessary strictly for this purpose (more than 5% as appropriate) and you should not report them to CLA.  There is no royalty payable for such copies.’  

Anything that goes beyond this, such as making internal copies to decide whether to submit to REF, is not covered and is subject to the institution’s CLA licence agreement.

It is worth noting that the CLA licence provides that ‘with the exception of any part of Website Material which is ‘free to view’, the Licensee must own or have subscribed to an original or a copy on which it has paid a copyright fee........of any Licensed Material it copies or scans....’

This means that it is only permissible to provide an academic's personal copy of research output, such as a journal article, in exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances apply where the institution cannot acquire a printed journal on the retail market (or the second-hand market), cannot acquire a Copyright Fee Paid Copy and no suitable digital version is available.  

If research outputs required to be submitted to the REF are not covered by the CLA licence, for example, because they are on the CLA list of Excluded Works or fall within an Excluded Category, then permission would be required from rightsholder(s) to submit a copy to REF auditors.


  • Last Updated May 15, 2023
  • Views 132
  • Answered By Elaine Pocklington

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