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Accessing Resources

ebooks@cambridge: Copyright & licensing

A guide to finding and using ebooks at the University of Cambridge


On this page you will find general guidance on what actions are permissible for using e-resources. For specific queries please contact


Downloading and printing from digital resources is covered by copyright law and licence terms.

DRM-protected ebook platforms use technology to restrict printing and downloading to that permitted by copyright law and licensing. However, for platforms which technically allow unrestricted downloading or printing of ebook content, the onus is on the user to observe copyright and licensing restrictions. Ebooks are subject to the terms and conditions of fair use in the same way as printed works, for example you may only copy/print up to 5% or one whole chapter (whichever is greater) from a book. Downloading or printing multiple chapter copies is not permitted.

Failure to observe copyright and licensing terms could result in legal action or the publisher withdrawing the University's access to a resource. Terms and conditions of use are often incorporated into the resources themselves. Copies of licences for individual digital resources or collections are available on request. Information for staff and students on copyright licensing is available from the University web pages.

The Equality Act 2010 and the Copyright and Related Rights (Marrakesh Treaty etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 allow people with a print disability to make (or have made) a copy of a whole work in order to provide equal access.

‘Print disabilities’ include, but are not limited to: visual impairments, learning disabilities and certain physical disabilities. Print-disabled library users may legally download entire ebooks for personal research/study use. Downloaded ebooks may not be shared with others (except with a study assistant to support your research/studies).

The Libraries Accessibility Service can provide fully downloadable alternatives to DRM-restricted ebooks including Electronic Legal Deposit titles. The amount of time this will take depends on how we are able to source the accessible file.

Please contact for further information.

Licences for purchased and subscription ebooks generally permit access without passwords on campus but restrict off-campus access to current staff and students of the University of Cambridge. These resources are protected by Raven (Shibboleth) password. Access to others is available only to walk-in users within Cambridge University Library or, where permitted, within the University of Cambridge domain.

Open proxy servers may not be used to provide access to licensed digital resources by unauthorised users. Publishers and service providers who discover that open proxy servers are being used in this way may take action to block access, either to the individual IP address or the whole domain.

The Information Services Committee of the University of Cambridge enforces Rules on the Use and Misuse of Computing Facilities.  These Rules completely prohibit any giving out of credentials provided to individuals by the University.  Sharing your credentials has grave consequences for your personal security and others’, as they can be used to obtain confidential, private and sensitive information, and could be used to damage the University’s computing facilities’ security.  Use of credentials by third parties not condoned by the University places the University in breach of license agreements covering the provision of published online content which would ultimately result in a license’s termination and loss of access.  The Rules state:

“User identifiers and passwords are issued to individuals for a specific purpose, usually in connection with University of Cambridge work, and the Rules explicitly forbid the giving, lending or borrowing of an identifier and password for any UIS facility FOR ANY REASON except where previously sanctioned by the UIS. As a matter of policy, UIS facilities do not have guest identifiers open to use by any member of the public.”

If you are approached by Sci-Hub to share your credentials it is advisable for your own security to refuse this.  Sci-Hub is a federated search system that operates with an associated repository called Library Genesis (LibGen) that contains illegally obtained copyrighted material.  Sci-Hub uses multiple institutional access systems to search across publisher platforms.  When it receives a search request, it delivers a copy of an article back to the requester and stores a copy in LibGen so that Sci-Hub can deliver it again for subsequent requests.  Sci-Hub circumvents authentication necessary to access publisher platforms that contain content provided to libraries under license agreements by using the login credentials of University members.  

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Text and Data mining

For information about Text and Data Mining (TDM) of electronic resources, see the Text & Data Mining LibGuide.

Further ebooks information for Cambridge librarians can be found on the Cambridge Libraries Intranet.

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