Copying criteria and restrictions

Preservation restrictions

Unlike other libraries' books, Bodleian books are kept in perpetuity, being deposited under legislation to form the national archive. Therefore, not all Bodleian books are available for photocopying, and those that are have to be copied in ways that minimise the stress to the books, so that the Library’s collections are preserved for future generations.

Criteria for self-service photocopying

Please check the following criteria:

  • Published later than 1901.
  • Cloth or paper binding – NOT leather.
  • Binding in good condition, opens well without strain.
  • Would not need to be pushed against the machine in order to obtain a good copy.
  • Does not contain a repair ticket, nor is it stored in a grey box designed to protect that particular book.
  • No larger than A4 – no thicker that 7.5cm – no heavier than 3kg.
  • Printed pages, NOT mounted items or pamphlets of different size bound together.
  • NOT an Inter-library Loan (a blue jacket will be wrapped around the item).
  • NOT a thesis.
  • NOT pages that fold out.
  • NOT hand-coloured pages.
  • If the book is in copyright, no more than 5% of the text or one complete chapter may be copied. Readers are restricted to a maximum of 50 pages. See copyright restrictions below for more information.

Criteria for staffed service photocopying

All black and white or colour photocopies made by staff should comply with the above criteria, although there are the following changes:

  • Published later than 1800.
  • The weight limit is increased to 4kg.
  • Size limit is increased to 59.4 x 42cm x 10cm.
  • It may be leather-bound.
  • It may be stapled.
  • Foldout leaves can be copied.
  • At the discretion of staff, sheet music and sheet maps may be copied.
  • You may have an unlimited number of copies (subject to copyright restrictions).

If you are in any doubt, please consult our reading room staff or use Ask an Oxford Librarian. We do reserve the right not to allow photocopying of any book if it is likely to be damaged. Bound manuscript material will not be photocopied.

If the book does not meet the above criteria, you will not be able to get photocopies.

Copyright restrictions

See the copyright page for further information, including on publishing copyrighted material.

Most books are deposited with the Bodleian Library for free by publishers, and therefore we have legal and moral obligations to ensure that the intellectual property (and thus the livelihood) of copyright holders is protected by the observance of copyright law by our readers and staff.

A work is in copyright for 70 years after the death of the author. Although a text may no longer be in copyright (e.g. a play by Shakespeare), an edition of a text involving the work of an editor, or a translation of that text, will have a new copyright in any new or distinctive material subsisting for 70 years after the death of the editor or translator. The typography of books is also protected for 25 years after first publication, whether or not the content is in copyright.

If you are making the copies yourself, you do not have to complete a copyright declaration but you are bound to observe the copying limits given below.

If the library is making copies for you, you must complete and sign the copyright declaration on the order form, and only request copying that abides by the limits outlined below.

The declaration reads:

  1. I require this copy for research for a non-commercial purpose and will not use it except for this purpose. Should publication or other forms of reproduction ever be considered, I undertake to obtain the further permission of the Library and the permission of any copyright owner.
  2. I declare that:
    (a) I have not previously been supplied with a copy of the same materials by you or by any other librarian or archivist;
    (b) I will not use the copy except for research for a non-commercial purpose and will not supply a copy of it to any other person;
    (c) To the best of my knowledge no other person with whom I work or study has made or intends to make, a request for a copy of substantially the same material for substantially the same purpose at or about the same time as this request.
  3. I understand that if this declaration is found to be false in any material particular the copy supplied to me by the Library will be infringing copy and that I shall be liable for infringement of copyright as if I had made the copy myself.

Once you have signed the declaration, we can offer copies under the following limits:

Photocopying periodical articles in copyright

Libraries may supply one copy of a single article in each issue of a periodical in copyright. Issues which contain only one article are classed as monographs and are treated the same as books.

Photocopying extracts from books in copyright

Libraries may supply one photocopy of extracts from books in copyright, provided that not more than a ‘reasonable proportion’ is copied. ‘Reasonable’ is not defined in the Act, but the Library has been advised by the Standing Conference of National and University Libraries (SCONUL) that the following guidelines, issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, may be taken to indicate what may be considered ‘a reasonable proportion’:

No copy shall exceed 5% or one complete chapter, whichever is the greater, of the total length of the copyright material, except:

  • in the case of an article in a serial publication or in a set of conference proceedings where ONE article may be reproduced from any issue of a serial publication, or from each set of conference proceedings; and

  • that one whole story, poem etc. may be reproduced from any one volume of short stories or poems provided the said story or poem does not exceed 10 pages in length. This means that:
    (a) articles in conference proceedings and serial publications may be copied on the same basis as periodical articles;
    (b) individual short stories or poems not exceeding 10 pages in length may be copied but not longer items in this category;
    (c) articles in collective works (e.g. Festschriften, encyclopaedias, dictionaries) should be treated as chapters in a book and may be photocopied.
    (d) In all other cases the total of the extract(s) to be copied must not exceed 5% of the volume.

If you need to photocopy more than is permitted under these restrictions, we will ask you to provide written permission before the copies can be made, either by our staff or yourself. We advise you to contact the publisher in the first instance for permission.

Photocopying of special categories of material in copyright


  • Foreign copyright material
    As a signatory nation to international Copyright Conventions the UK must afford the same protection to foreign publications as it does to its own.

  • Government publications
    Some British, and all US, government publications are exempt from normal restrictions. Acts and Bills of the UK and Scottish Parliaments and the Northern Ireland and Wales Assemblies; their Statutory Instruments and Rules and Explanatory Notes, may all be copied freely, as may Measures of the General Synod of the Church of England, National Curriculum. The waiver applies to the original document, not necessarily to any further copy of it. Press notices may also be copied freely.

    For more details see the HMSO advice. Normal fair dealing rules apply to most other UK Crown copyright publications. In cases of doubt, please consult the staff of the Official Papers Reading Room.

  • Illustrations
    Illustrations are separate works in their own right, with separate copyright. If they or the text in which they occur is in copyright, they should not be copied separately. They may only be copied if the copying is incidental to the copying of the text in which they occur. As well as pictorial and photographic works, graphs, charts, maps, diagrams and technical drawings all count as illustrations.

  • Manuscripts and theses
    For information on copying pre-1800 manuscript material, modern (post-1800) manuscripts or Oxford theses, see mediated services.

  • Maps
    Maps occurring in copyright books or periodicals are to be treated as illustrations unless they carry a publisher’s name which differs from that of the main work. Applications for maps, apart from those included in books and periodicals, should always be made through the Maps Section located in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room, Weston Library.

  • Music
    It is difficult to copy the permitted "insubstantial" part of a musical work, though the law does not differentiate between musical and literary works. The Music Publishers’ Association states that anything copied should be less than a performance piece, and should not be intended for performance. There are special rules about copying for performance. Consult the staff of the Music Reading Room if you want to copy any piece of music in copyright. Applications for music, apart from extracts in periodicals, should always be made through the Music Section located in the Mackerras Reading Room, Weston Library.

  • Newspapers
    Newspapers should be treated for copyright purposes on the same basis as periodicals. It is accepted that it may sometimes be impossible to avoid reproducing more than the particular article requested.

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