Q. What penalties could I face for breaking copyright law?


Copyright is infringed when any of the following acts are done without permission, whether directly or indirectly and whether the whole or a substantial part of a work is used:

  • copying the work in any way
  • issuing copies of the work to the public
  • renting or lending copies of the work to the public
  • performing, showing or playing the work in public
  • broadcasting the work or other communication to the public by electronic transmission
  • making an adaptation of the work.

However, some minor uses may fall within the scope of exceptions to copyright; further information on these, and on the recent changes to the law, can be found in our copyright guide.

Copyright infringement can lead to substantial penalties, even if the UK legal system is unlikely to hit American levels of awards.

Upon conviction in the magistrates' court the maximum term of incarceration in the UK for copyright infringement is 6 months and/or a fine of up to £50,000.

Upon conviction in the Crown Court the maximum term of incarceration in the UK for copyright infringement is 10 years and/or an "unlimited" fine.

Colleges, universities and other learning providers may be vulnerable to the extent that office holders and those responsible for compliance must not knowingly facilitate the commercial abuse of copyright protected work.

For example - most if not all of our contracts with our database providers reserve the right to terminate the agreement for a material breach and to recover the costs from ARU; this could also lead to compensation for such infringement. As a result, the entire University would lose access to all the journal articles etc. provided through that database.


  • Last Updated Feb 04, 2016
  • Views 76987
  • Answered By Rebecca Mackle

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