Managing your copyright

Different types of copyright licences


Copyright licensing is a common method for gaining and transferring rights of copyright works. If you wish to use copyright material, you usually need to get permission from the rights holder to do so.

Usually, this permission takes the form of a licence (unless one of the limited copyright exceptions applies). There are several common types of copyright licences.

Exclusive licence

The exclusive licence allows the licensee to make use of the copyright work to the exclusion of everyone else, including the copyright owner. An exclusive licence may:

  • be limited in time or some other way
  • cover one or all of the economic rights in the work - for example, it may or may not allow sub-licensing

Limited use licence

A limited use licence is where a copyright owner allows a work to be used only in a specific way. A typical example is where permission is granted to use a photograph in the production of a brochure, but if it is then used in an advertisement or on a website, a further licence will be needed.

Creative Commons licence

Some creators of work allow users to have free access and make use of their work by granting a Creative Commons licence. These licences enable people to share and build on the work of other people by remixing or rebuilding. Find out more about Creative Commons licences.

Collecting societies

For some copyright owners, it is difficult and potentially expensive to licence individual users, so they have grouped together to form organisations known as 'collecting societies' or 'collective licensing bodies'. Find out more about collecting societies and licensing bodies.

From 1 January 2021, EEA collective management organisations may not automatically represent UK right holders and collective management organisations. For current information, see: collective rights management from 1 January 2021.