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Newspapers and other online news sources from the 17th – 21st centuries: Copyright

A guide to historical and current newspapers and news sources, covering the 17th to 21st centuries. Includes searching tips, outline common problems and lists key resources available to Oxford scholars.

Quick guidance

Newspaper content may be in copyright, or out of copyright:

  • If it’s out of copyright you can use it without needing to get permission
  • If it’s in copyright you should first check if a licence applies which will typically be
    • Newspaper database terms and conditions, or
    • NLA Media Access Licence
  • You can also use in copyright newspaper content under Fair Dealing provisions (s.b.) where licences aren’t available or appropriate.

Fair Dealing

In case of newspapers fair dealing applies:

Anybody can copy an 'insubstantial part'. This is not defined in law, but almost certainly precludes anything materially useful by itself. A single copy, in any format, of a 'substantial part' may be made under fair dealing for private study or for research for a non-commercial purpose, and the generally accepted upper limits of what constitutes a substantial amount that can be copied within fair dealing are as follows:

  • one copy of one article in a serial publication or in a set of conference proceedings or in a collective work (other than a poem, short story or other literary work in a collection of such works)
  • one copy of one complete chapter from a book
  • one copy of one case report from a law report
  • up to 5% of a physical volume of any of the above (which may be greater than one article, chapter or report, or may include extracts from more than one such article, chapter or report)
  • one short story or poem in a collective work, up to ten pages in length

Any more than this is probably not fair dealing. Nor is it fair dealing to copy, say, one article from a book or journal on one occasion and another article from the same book or journal on another occasion. Note also that introductory and similar matter are not excluded, but should be treated as chapters or articles.

A library may make and supply to you a copy, in any format, of part of a published work within the same limits. The librarian will ask you to complete a copyright declaration, which limits your use of the copy to private study or non-commercial research.

Duration of copyright

To know whether a newspaper article is out of copyright, you need to know if the article was signed or not. According to British Library guidance, if the article is unsigned, copyright expires 70 years after publication; if the article is signed, copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author.

Beyond Fair Dealing

Oxford University has a license agreement with the Newspaper Licensing Agency (now called NLA Media Access) but it is complex - the University's Press and Information Office should be consulted about any proposed use.