Photo of a student who is browsing the library's bookshelvesThe copyright law states how you may use material that somebody else has created. The law protects texts, pictures, photographs, music, films, computer programs etc. Copyright means that the person or persons who create a work have the right to control how it is used. Copyright regulates a creator’s sole right to artistic and literary works, music, art, photographs, computer programs etc. The originator has the sole right of disposal for these.

The Swedish copyright law (SFS 1960:729) gives all originators, regardless of nationality, the same protection. If you want to use something that somebody else has created, you should or must often ask permission from the copyright owner first.

For how long is the work protected?

Copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the originator. If the work is anonymous, copyright lasts for 70 years after the publication of the work.

What is protected by the copyright law?

Regarding text material, for example novels and poems, as well as translations are protected. Also articles from journals and newspapers are comprised by the law.

Works of art such as paintings, sculptures, drawings, pictures and photographs are also protected. All photographs are protected by the copyright law. The law distinguishes photographic work from photographs though. The more artistic pictures are seen as photographic work. Also building plans and utility articles such as furniture are included.

Databases and catalogues have a special protection which is valid for fifteen years. Computer programs on the other hand are protected by the copyright law.

Are you allowed to make copies?

You have the right to make single copies for private use of works that have been made public. Private use means that, apart from making copies for your own use, you can also make single copies for your family and a close circle of friends. Copying is only permitted for limited parts of books or other literary works. You must not make copies of computer programs and databases though.

Are you allowed to quote somebody else’s work?

You are allowed to quote from published works “according to custom”, and to an extent which is motivated by the context. “According to custom” means that quoting is only allowed if it is motivated by the purpose. For example, you can be permitted to quote from a work when you are writing a review, or an academic text. The originator should always be mentioned when his work is used.

What happens if you violate the copyright law?

A person who violates the copyright law can be liable to pay damages. If you violate another person’s copyright intentionally, you can be sentenced to a fine or to prison.

Copyright and the Internet

Copyright also comprises documents that are published on the Internet. This means that the copyright law regulates how you may use Internet documents, even if you have access to them from your computer.

When a computer user copies and permanently stores a work that is protected by copyright, it is considered as production of a copy. Multiplying a document on the Internet therefore requires permission from the copyright owner. The automatic, temporary copy that many computer programs produce when you read a document on the Internet is not considered to be a reproduction however.

An Internet user has the right to make a copy of an Internet document, without the permission of the copyright owner, on condition that the copy is only intended for personal use, or a small circle of family and friends. The copy may not be used for other purposes. This exception does not apply to computer programs. They may not be copied.

The right to quote makes it permitted to quote from a copyright protected document on the Internet, provided that it is done according to custom, and only to an extent that is motivated by the purpose. The source must be stated correctly and the quote must not be too long. However, you may not use for example a quote from a work of fiction in an advertisement, or to embellish your own work.

Copyright and full text resources

Copyright also comprises those resources which are available in full text from the library web site. The regulations that apply to the resources the university library subscribes to are specified in the license agreements. Generally speaking, these rules can be summarized according to the following:

“This service includes licensed data only intended for use in scientific work, research, education and for personal use. To alter, make compilations, copy system- or software, resell, redistribute, publish or republish data is not permitted.”

Tips for further reading

Copyright is regulated in the Act on Copyright in Literary and Artistic Works (SFS 1960:729).

The Swedish National Agency for Education has a list of links to different copyright and interest groups, upphovsrätts- och intresseorganisationer, in Swedish. The organisations will answer questions within their fields of interest, e.g. architecture, pictures, computer games, film, etc. You will also find some information on their web sites.

Open licenses

Creative Commons is a type of open license that you can use to specify how you want other people to be able to use your work (your text, picture or web site for example). There are six different Creative Commons licenses which are based on combinations of four different terms: Attribution, NonCommercial, NoDerivs and ShareAlike.

All CC-licenses contain the term Attribution which means that people who use your work must state you as the originator. If you choose the term NonCommercial, others may use your work, except for commercial purposes. The term NoDerivs means your work may not be altered, only distributed or copied in its original form. The fourth term ShareAlike means others have the right to alter your work and redistribute it, if they in turn use the same CC license for the new work.

Tips for further reading

By answering the questions in the License Chooser you can find out which license suits you best, and read more about what the different CC-licenses mean.

There is of course a lot of information on the Creative Commons web site On their Swedish site you find the license texts in Swedish, and information on how Creative Commons relates to Swedish law (in Swedish).