In the UK, a text is copyright protected for 70 years after the end of the year the author dies in. Copyright covers writing in any form, including for example the pages of websites and blogs, and printed text.
Copyright doesn't just cover the reproduction or adaptation of a text; it covers the storing and sharing of texts with other people – online or offline. If you are copying or sharing in any way a substantial part of a text, you will need to get permission from the copyright holder.
If you're part of an organisation such as a business, charity or educational establishment, you can get licences that allow you to use text from a wide range of publications. Typically, the licences cover photocopying or scanning articles from magazines, journals, books, newspapers and specialist titles, emailing articles or press cuttings internally to colleagues, cutting and pasting content from a digital or online publication or website or uploading and storing published content or cuttings on an intranet.
If you are quoting shorter parts of a text (for example in an essay or newspaper report), you should make sure that you provide a reference to say where your quotes come from – this applies no matter what kind of document you are quoting from. But if you wish to quote more substantial amounts of text, you will need a licence.
Below are some suggestions of who to contact in specific cases. These might not satisfy all of your questions, and you may also need to contact other organisations for permission or advice.
Who to contact
Copying or sharing text from a book, journal or magazine at work
If your organisation regularly copies, scans or shares text from books, journals or magazines (print or digital, including website content), the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) can issue a blanket licence that covers use of limited extracts of text from a vast range of UK and international publications.
For international licences you can also contact Copyright Clearance Center (CCC).
Copying or sharing information from a newspaper at work
If your organisation regularly stores, copies or shares information from newspapers, you can get a blanket licence from NLA media access, which covers use of a large number of UK and international newspapers.
You can also obtain international licences from Copyright Clearance Center (CCC).
Using text in a creative work or a product
You may need to contact the copyright holder directly to ask permission to use their work. Contact the relevant book publisher, magazine, journal or newspaper.
Permissions for using newspaper content can be sought from NLA media access and for other text from CLA.
You can also contact Copyright Clearance Center to see if the text can be covered by one of its licences.
Alternatively, the Publishers Licensing Society may be able to help.
You may also need to contact other organisations for permission or advice.
If you can’t find out who holds copyright for a text
If after carrying out a “diligent search” you still can’t find out who the copyright holder is, the work you want to use may qualify as an orphan work, that is a work protected by copyright but whose copyright owner is unknown or cannot be found. You can find guidance on how orphan works can be used in the UK on CopyrightUser.org.