The law governing copyright in the UK is the 1988 Copyright, Design and Patents Act (CDPA) and amendments. The latest amendments have been passed into law on 1 June 2014.
The act can be found here
It exists to protect the intellectual standing and economic rights of creators and publishers of all literary, dramatic, artistic, musical, audiovisual and electronic works. A work can qualify for copyright protection provided that:
Provided the above criteria are met copyright protection is automatic.
You may make a single print or digital copy of anything in copyright for;
The amount you copy must be 'fair and justifiable'
The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 permits certain activities which would otherwise be infringements of copyright. These are copying for:
It is the responsibility of the person wishing to copy to decide if the copy is being made in support of commercial or non-commercial research, taking into to consideration what is known at the time of the copying. Research being undertaken for a commercial organisation is highly likely to be research for a commercial purpose and fall outside the exception. Therefore, any copying undertaken in such a situation will constitute copyright infringement without consent from the copyright owner.
Copying for instructional use is permitted provided it is done by the lecturer or student and is essential for illustration. Copies should make use of as small an amount of the work as is needed to make the necessary point for instruction. Where possible acknowledgement should be provided. This includes copying for the purposes of examination.
Reproducing a copyright work for the purpose of criticism and review is not an infringement of copyright provided it is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement of the source. [For criticism and review purposes, fair dealing allows copying of up to a limit of 400 words in one extract or several extracts of less than 300 words and totaling no more than 800 words. One quarter of a whole poem, not exceeding more than 40 lines, may be copied.]
Providing sufficient acknowledgement of the source is given, anyone may copy from a work (but not photographs) for the purposes of reporting current events. No acknowledgement is required for reporting done by sound recording, film, broadcast or cable programme.
Creative Commons licenses allow creators to give public permission for others to use their work. The standardised licenses allow the copyright holder to change the terms from 'all rights reserved' to 'some rights reserved' and provide a link to the relevant license so users are aware of their ability to reuse the work.
Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright but rather work alongside copyright to enable creators to modify copyright terms to best suit their needs and the needs of their audience.
If you are using a work under a Creative Commons license it is important to adhere to the terms as failure to do so could be considered a breach of copyright.
For more information see: Creative Commons
You can use the license picker to add a Creative Commons License to your own work: Creative Commons: Choose