ICT4LT_LogoGeneral guidelines on copyright


This document has been produced in response to the increasing number of enquiries the ICT4LT project staff have received concerning copyright issues. None of the advice given here is a substitute for legal advice and no responsibility can be accepted for any loss or damages arising from this information. If you have a particular query you are advised to contact the relevant publishers or rights agencies.


1. UK copyright legislation

Copyright in the UK is governed by the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988, which is the primary piece of legislation dealing with Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The Act has been extensively amended since it came into force in 1989. Many amendments have also been brought in to implement European Commission directives. See the Intellectual Property Office site: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/copy.htm

Copyright legislation covers:

Important changes to the 1988 Act came into force in October 2003, following a European Union Directive passed in 2001, and resulted in important amendments, especially amendments relating to the dissemination of copyright material via the Internet and relating to the reinforced rights of authors to be acknowledged. Search the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations (2003) document in particular for the phrases communication to the public and sufficient acknowledgement. See also the interpretation of the 2003 Regulations by Oppenheim (2004) and Section 4.1 below.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) website is a comprehensive source of information on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR):

1.1 Copyright and education

There is a tendency for teachers to think "Oh, it's for education, so I don't need to bother about copyright". This is one of the big myths. There are no automatic general concessions for education - but there are licensing schemes and a few specific concessions that help schools and colleges stay within the law when using copyright materials: A useful summary of which kinds of licences are needed by schools and what they cover can be found in this guide to copyright licensing in schools:

http://www.licensing-copyright.org. Click on the "At a glance..." tab.

See also the IPO website's section on education:


There is a section headed Understanding copyright in our downloadable set of "can do" lists relating to a variety of aspects of ICT that language teachers need to be aware of. Click here: ICT_Can_Do_Lists.

Acceptable Use Policy (AUP): Copyright is usually mentioned in an institution's Acceptable Use Policy document, namely a set of rules that define the ways in which ICT facilities can and cannot be used in a business or educational institution, including a description of the possible sanctions that can be applied if a user breaks the rules.

2. What is copyright?

Basically, copyright hinges on the question of ownership of an original work. An original work can take various forms: text, image, audio recording, video recording, computer software, website, etc. Copyright is immediately effective upon the creation of an original work. The creator of an original work does not have to register his/her copyright in the work before it is protected. Copyright automatically belongs to the author or creator - but it may also be assigned to a third party, for example a publishing business. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to prevent any third party from doing any of the following without permission:

Copyright in a work lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator - 50 years in the case of audio and video recordings, audio and video broadcasts, and computer-generated works. Unless a work is clearly stated to be copyright-free or out of copyright by virtue of its age, it is illegal to download, scan or otherwise copy the said work for onward dissemination, even if no financial gain takes place.

A case of copyright infringement applies where the copyright material is being used. In other words, in the UK you are subject to British laws on copyright irrespective of the country of origin of the item you intend to copy.

3. Software

Unauthorised copying of commercially produced computer software is not allowed. This applies regardless of whether the original copies of the software have been purchased on a medium such as a CD-ROM or DVD or downloaded from the Web.

The networking of commercially produced software without the express permission from the copyright holder is not allowed, neither is the copying of software onto several stand-alone computers. If the software is to be networked for simultaneous access by a number of users, appropriate permission has to be sought from the publisher. Most publishers sell multiple-user licences - often referred to as concurrent licences - for the simultaneous use on a specified number of computers. The publisher may require multiple access to be monitored by special software. Check the terms and conditions on the packaging of the software or in accompanying documentation - which may be in printed or electronic format.

Software can easily be copied, and it is essential that an educational institution possesses only legitimate copies of all the software it uses. Educational institutions are public places and can be caught out in surprising ways. I was contacted some years ago by a local school that had received a letter from the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) asking the school to explain why a pupil at the school had brought home a floppy disc containing a copy of my software. I presume a conscientious parent, possibly a computer consultant or police officer, had reported the school to FAST. The floppy disc was in fact a legitimate copy - one of many student discs that I had supplied to the school - but I had to contact both FAST and the school to confirm that everything was above board.

The FAST website includes a section where anyone can report suspected infringements of copyright, e.g.

4. The Internet

It is most important to bear in mind recent copyright legislation if your intend to use or publish materials via the Internet, e.g. on a World Wide Web site. The use of Web materials for teaching and learning is quite different from the use of printed and broadcast materials, where there are substantial concessions for education, e.g. as embodied in the terms of the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) and the Educational Recording Agency (ERA). Publishing on the Web is also quite different from publishing in other media: see Casey (2004), which is a useful guide for anyone wishing to develop Web materials.

All materials published on the Web (texts, images, audio files and video files) are subject to copyright and may not be disseminated, e.g. copied and pasted into your own website, without the copyright owner's permission. Permission may be granted in the owner's Terms of Use (see below), as stated at their site, or it may have to be sought directly from the copyright owner. It is insufficient simply to acknowledge the source of the materials. For example, if you wish to use a piece of text or an image from someone else's website, then you must treat it as you would any other piece of copyrighted work; in other words gain permission (copyright clearance) to use the text or image. You have to approach the website owner and state precisely which piece of text or which image you wish to use, and what you intend to do with it. If permission is granted then you can only use the materials for the purposes stated, and you can sued for infringement if you use them for other purposes.

Many people think that because something is on the Web it must be in the public domain. This is not so. The term "in the public domain" has a special meaning. If a work is in the public domain this means that it is not subject to copyright law, for example because the owner of the work has relinquished copyright on the work and has explicitly stated so, or because the owner of the work has been dead for over 70 years - 50 years in the case of audio and video recordings, audio and video broadcasts, and computer-generated works. You may be lucky to find materials on the Web that are stated to be copyright-free or in the public domain, and then the terms of using such materials are much more liberal. Look for a clear statement saying "The materials on this website are in the public domain" or something similar.

Check the Terms of Use

If you wish to use materials from someone else's website, check the Terms of Use, (also known as Terms and Conditions or Terms of Service), which you will usually find at the bottom of the Web page or via a clickable link at the bottom of the page. For example, the BBC Website states:

Section 4. All copyright, trade marks, design rights, patents and other intellectual property rights (registered and unregistered) in and on bbc.co.uk and all content (including all applications) located on the site shall remain vested in the BBC or its licensors (which includes other users). You may not copy, reproduce, republish, disassemble, decompile, reverse engineer, download, post, broadcast, transmit, make available to the public, or otherwise use bbc.co.uk content in any way except for your own personal, non-commercial use. You also agree not to adapt, alter or create a derivative work from any bbc.co.uk content except for your own personal, non-commercial use. Any other use of bbc.co.uk content requires the prior written permission of the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/terms/

The key phrase here is personal, non-commercial use, i.e. not public use and not involving any kind of commercial gain. Posting something on the Web constitutes public use.

Some sites, e.g. the BBC Schools Website, allow teachers, students and their parents considerable freedom regarding the copying and use of website materials, e.g. as at http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/copyright/, but don't assume that such freedom applies to all sites and all materials found on the Web. You should also be aware that many Web resources and printed resources created by copying and pasting texts or images from the Web, may have been published illegally without the permission of the copyright owners. Any subsequent publication of the materials may therefore also be illegal.

Creative Commons Licences

Most of the materials stored at the ICT4LT website are subject to a Creative Commons Licence, details of which can be found at the foot of each page.

This slideshow presentation by Rodd Lucier gives a good explanation of what Creative Commons is all about:
Creative Commons: what every educator needs to know

This video tells the story of a photographer who learns to use both Copyright and Creative Commons to accomplish her goals:
Copyright and Creative Commons Explained by Common Craft


There are a number of important copyright issues surrounding email correspondence. If you send an email to a private person or discussion list, for example, you automatically own the copyright in your email message and you retain your moral right to be identified as the author. Regarding other people's email messages, you should always seek permission (it's only polite, anyway) before passing them on to third parties or copying extracts for publication elsewhere.


Webwhacking is a term used to describe the process of saving entire websites for use offline. It may breach copyright because it involves copying the website to a local drive, either a network server or a stand-alone computer's hard drive. As well as the straightforward legal issue that copying has occurred without the copyright holder's consent, there are other issues:


If you intend to include a link to another website from your own website, or for example from a Word document, there is nothing in copyright law that states you need permission to do so. It is, however, common courtesy to contact the owner of a site that you wish to link to. You should always acknowledge the source of the site that you link to and make sure (i) that its full URL appears in the browser's address box, and (ii) that the linked site appears in a separate window rather than within a frame that suggests the page may belong to your own site - which could be interpreted as "passing off" the linked site as your own. Terms and conditions of use are normally published at websites of large organisations, government websites and EC websites, and they usually allow linking subject to due acknowledgement.

Deep linking

This involves linking to Web pages other than the homepage of a website. While it is not necessarily a copyright infringement to do this, it has resulted in successful legal action in the commercial world, e.g. by newspapers. The reason for this is that in bypassing the homepage visitors may also be bypassing sponsors' advertising that is presented on the homepage, thus resulting in the loss of potential income for the site owner. A solution to this is to give the homepage link and then the precise location of the item, including due acknowledgement, e.g. its title, author and date of publication. See Brad Templeton's advice on Linking Rights: http://www.templetons.com/brad/linkright.html


Compiling a website containing chunks of other people's work that you have downloaded from their websites without asking their permission is: (a) extremely discourteous, (b) likely to be in breach of copyright and (c) possibly considered as plagiarism. If you place materials on a publicly accessible website you are a publisher and thereby subject to the same copyright constraints as any other publisher. However, if the materials are for limited educational uses only, e.g. in a classroom or on an educational institution's intranet rather than on a publicly accessible website, the copyright owner may be more willing to grant you permission to use them - always check with the copyright owner to make sure that you are not infringing copyright. Compilations of lists of websites, together with their URLs and short descriptions, is not an infringement of copyright. Such lists of links may also be considered as original works and are therefore protected by copyright law and may not be copied without the compiler's permission.

4.1 Communication to the public right

The term communication to the public appears in a European Union Directive (2001), which was implemented in the UK under the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations (2003). See the interpretation of the 2003 Regulations by Oppenheim (2004).

These regulations govern copyright works that are made accessible via the Internet. Essentially, this means that copyright law in the context of online learning has been tightened up, whereby only the copyright owner has the right to authorise the electronic transmission of the copyright owner's work to the public. Distribution of materials over the Internet or an intranet could infringe this new right if the materials include texts, images, audio recordings and video recordings that are owned by a third party - i.e. if you have not created them yourself as original works.

The term communication to the public should be understood in a broad sense, covering all communication to the public not present at the place where the communication originates. This covers any transmission or retransmission of a work to the public by wire or wireless means, including broadcasting. This means you must obtain the copyright owner’s permission before posting the owner’s work on the Internet, an educational intranet or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), including password-protected websites and VLEs. There is also a new obligation that sufficient acknowledgement, e.g. the author's name plus a bibliographical citation, is required.

The definition of the public is understood to include small subsets of the public:

This new restricted act, that only the copyright owner may authorise third parties to do, is defined as broadcasting the work or making the work available to the public by electronic transmission in such a way that members of the public may access it from a place and at a time individually chosen by them. What constitutes "the public"? Presumably a small subset of the public, such as staff and/or students in an educational institution, will be considered to be the public. That is certainly the view of the Department of Trade and Industry, which is the government department responsible for copyright law in the UK. Thus, an institution placing material on an intranet without the copyright owner's permission would be infringing this right, even if relatively few people had access to the intranet. (Oppenheim 2004)

There are also implications regarding private study and research:

Much of the copying that goes on within HEIs and FEIs is defensible because of the well-known "fair dealing" exception to copyright, which hitherto has permitted copying for research or private study. The law has changed significantly in this regard. This exception is reduced to fair dealing only for research for a non-commercial purpose, or for private study. Furthermore, "private study" is now defined as NOT including "any study which is directly or indirectly for a commercial purpose". This could have significant implications for those undertaking private study with a view to gaining money in the future [...]. There is also a new obligation that sufficient acknowledgement (e.g. the author's name plus a bibliographic citation) is required unless it is impractical. This forces people to use good citing habits, and also hammers home the importance of protecting the author's moral right to be identified as the author of a work. (Oppenheim 2004)

Broadcasts recorded under an ERA licence are subject to new legislation:

Many HEIs and FEIs also take advantage of an exception that permits the recording of certain broadcasts for educational purposes. There is a new requirement introduced for acknowledgement to be given. There is a new Clause, which states that copyright is not infringed if communication to the public occurs as long as any person outside the premises of the educational establishment cannot receive the communication. The problem here is defining "the premises", but prima facie this prevents distance learners at educational establishments having access via the Internet or an intranet to such recordings. Of course, if the establishment has an ERA licence, the problem will not apply to those broadcasts covered by the licence. (Oppenheim 2004)

5. Printed materials: CLA licences

Check that your insitution has an appropriate Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) licence. The CLA is a non profit-making company that is responsible for looking after the interests of owners of printed materials that are protected by copyright law and published in the UK and 17 other countries. The CLA issues licences to businesses, educational insitutions and government departments to allow them to copy extracts from books, journals, magazines and periodicals. The CLA entitles licensees to copy a wide range of copyright materials without seeking copyright clearance, while ensuring that authors and publishers are appropriately reimbursed for the use of their intellectual property. The CLA's licences also include artistic works through its agreement with the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS). If necessary, The CLA can also institute legal proceedings for the enforcement of the rights entrusted to it.

Note that the CLA licence does not entitle you to copy whole works and there are restrictions regarding the making of multiple copies for classroom use and also the storage of copied materials in electronic format and making them available to students and staff over a network. Recent changes to the CLA licensing scheme for FE, HE and adult edcuation institutions specify what you are allowed to do with materials in electronic format. See Section 4.1 (above) headed Communication to the public right.

In general, the main limitations of the CLA licence are as follows:

No copying may exceed 5% of the published volume or issue or, if greater:

No systematic or repeated copying of the same material which would breach the above limitations is permitted during any one course of study/module, i.e. progressively copying more than the above limitations for the same class of pupils. Check the CLA website for further information.

The CLA licence does not cover all publications. Publishers, authors and artists not covered are listed at the CLA website. Newspapers are also excluded. See the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) website for information regarding the copying of materials from British newspapers and a number of foreign newspapers.

You might think no one is the wiser, but you may well be breaking the law! The CLA has a compliance arm called Copywatch. Copywatch investigates cases of copyright infringement, and when appropriate, takes legal action. Anyone can report suspected infringements in confidence and be rewarded handsomely for identifying guilty parties.

6. Audio and video materials

Audio and video materials, whether they are publicly broadcast materials or commercially produced materials distributed on cassette, CD or DVD, are subject to a number of restrictions.

6.1 Commercially produced audio and video materials

Unauthorised copying of commercially produced audio or video materials is generally not allowed. Some publishers give blanket permission for making copies within a non-commercial educational environment, and others sell licences that permit copies to be made for students' use, but making copies of commercially produced audio and video materials and passing them on to third parties normally constitutes a serious infringement of copyright. Even transferring audio and video materials from one format to another may not be permitted, e.g. from cassette to CD-ROM or DVD, or into MP3 or MP4 format so that the materials can be played on a PC. Some publishers are, however, becoming more liberal in this respect. This is the actual wording on the packaging of a recently produced set of audio CDs:

This set of CDs is for your individual use only. You are legally entitled to rip/copy the content of these CDs to your own PC hard drive and/or MP3 player. Please note that it is illegal to:

Look at the terms and conditions on the packaging of purchased audio or video materials or in accompanying documentation. If the terms and conditions do not state explicitly that you are allowed to transfer recordings from one medium to another then you must apply for permission to do so from the publisher.

Above all, never make commercially produced recordings available on an institutional intranet or on a public website unless you have explicit permission to do so, as this constitutes communication to the public, which is a term used in recent copyright legislation. Communicating an author's work to the public without permission is illegal.

6.2 Publicly broadcast audio and video materials: ERA licences

There are considerable concessions for educational institutions that have bought an Educational Recording Agency (ERA) licence. If you use terrestrial broadcast audio or TV recordings as a teaching resource in your institution you must buy an ERA licence. With an ERA licence you know where you stand. Off-air recordings must be made on-campus, in staff members' homes or by designated third parties.

Under an ERA licence you are allowed to record, for educational purposes, terrestrial broadcast radio and television programmes, either at home or within the institution. There is no restriction on the number of copies made and on how long they may be kept. It is also permitted to record extracts or part of a programme or to compile extracts from different programmes. But it is not permitted to adapt, alter or distort a recording, thus no new soundtrack must be added and the original soundtrack must not be separated from the images. This may have implications for subtitling or dubbing of broadcasts as this might be deemed to be altering the original concept of the work. It is wise to note the date of recording on the label of a copy in order to avoid the copy being mistaken for an illegal copy of commercially produced materials.

Satellite TV and cable TV broadcasts are not governed by ERA licences, so it appears at first sight that you can record and copy them and do what you like about them - but it's not that clear-cut. You can certainly make recordings from satellite and cable TV, store them and copy them for use within your educational institution, i.e. on-campus. Making multiple copies of such recordings for distribution off-campus, e.g. to students, is another matter and most guidelines found on the websites of educational institutions are cautious about saying that this is acceptable within law. Search the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations (2003) document for these terms: broadcast, communication to the public and sufficient acknowledgement. See also Oppenheim (2004).

Open University broadcasts are not covered by the ERA licence. A separate licence from The Open University must be obtained for these programmes. This is under the terms of Section 35 of the 1988 Act, which permits rights owners who are not ERA members to set up parallel licensing schemes covering the materials they own or represent. To date only The Open University has set up a licensing scheme covering its own programmes.

If broadcasts have been recorded off-air under the terms and conditions of your school's ERA licence then you are allowed to transfer them from one medium to another and even make them available via your school's intranet - but not if the intranet is accessible off-campus, e.g. from pupils' homes, as this is not permitted under the ERA scheme or any part of Section 35 of the 1988 Copyright Act.

See the ERA FAQs page at: http://www.era.org.uk/faqs.html

Some TV broadcasts may be subject to a Creative Commons Licence.

6.3 Public screening of video materials

Most commercially produced DVDs and videocassettes carry a warning indicating that they can only be used for private and not public screening. DVDs or videocassettes shown in educational institutions for the purposes of "instruction" are normally not considered as public screenings, so they can be shown if they are used for teaching rather than for "entertainment". Essentially, you need a Public Video Screening Licence (PVSL) to show films for entertainment purposes, but if a film is shown as part of the curriculum it does not require a copyright licence. The PVSL does not allow for screenings for commercial or money-making purposes, but such licences can be purchased from Filmbank. Bear in mind that the PVSL only covers your school's staff and students. If guests are invited to a screening then you need to purchase a Single Title Screening Licence (STSL). Although there is usually a clear distinction between screening for "entertainment" and screening for "instruction", it may be advisable for an educational institution to purchase a PVSL in order to cover all eventualities.

6.4 Making audio and video materials public

The next time that you watch a feature film or a documentary on TV, look at the credits and acknowledgements at the end. You will find that the source of every piece of music that has been played, every song that has been sung and every video clip that has been shown in the film is documented. This means that the production company has sought permission for the music to be played, the songs to be sung and the video clips to be shown, and has probably paid a fee to the copyright owners. You have to do the same if you are making other people's audio and video materials public in any way, especially via the Internet, including educational intranets and VLEs. There are no special concessions for education, and it makes no difference whether you are making the resources public in order to share the resources free of charge or for commercial gain. See Section 4.1 (above) headed Communication to the public right.

The main problem with broadcast material is that the broadcaster may not actually own the rights to it and therefore cannot give permission to someone else to disseminate it further. Let us consider the following scenario: You decide to produce a set of materials on watching TV news broadcasts for students of a foreign language. The materials are to consist of transcripts, worksheets, language notes, vocab lists, accompanied by video recordings of authentic news broadcasts. You find a publisher who is willing to publish the materials and set about recording suitable news broadcasts and producing the transcripts, etc. You send the recordings and the first drafts of the accompanying materials to the publisher. The publisher immediately asks you to confirm that you have sought permission from the appropriate sources to disseminate the video recordings, to make the transcripts, etc. You haven't, so you immediately set about this task. You approach one of the TV companies that broadcast one of the news items. The TV company refers you to a news agency that sold them the rights to broadcast the news item, pointing out that such rights had a limited time span, e.g. the TV company was only allowed to broadcast the item a certain number of times in the course of one week when it was hot news. You approach the news agency, and they refer you to a freelance team that has produced the film - and so on. You realise at this point that you are wasting your time. A more sensible approach is to write to a TV company asking them for permission to use a selection of broadcasts in which they have copyright and to restrict yourself to these materials. In other words, it makes more sense to work the other way round: find out what you are allowed to use first rather than leaping in blindly and getting in a mess over copyright.

6.5 Making audio and video recordings of interviews with people

Caution should be exercised here. The Oral History Society website states:

Interviewing people serves very little purpose unless the interviews become available for use. It is unethical, and in many cases illegal, to use interviews without the informed consent of the interviewee, in which the nature of the use or uses is clear and explicit.

When an interview is recorded, separate copyrights exist in (i) the words spoken and (ii) the recording itself. Initially, the owner of the copyright in the words spoken is the speaker, while the copyright in the recording belongs to the person or organisation which arranged for the recording to be made. UK copyright law already covers these issues, so the default situation is that the speaker initially has the right to determine what is done with his/her recording. See the Oral History Society website for further, detailed information on making, storing and disseminating audio and video recordings.

6.6 So what about YouTube?

Many teachers regularly use YouTube video clips for teaching, especially by downloading and converting YouTube clips for use offline: see Section, Module 2.2, headed Saving and converting streaming media for use offline. But caution is advised. There may be special concessions regarding the use of video clips for educational purposes (see above, Section 4 and Section 6.2) but don't assume that such concessions are automatic.

Since its inception YouTube has become an increasingly valuable resource for teachers, but it has often become embroiled in copyright disputes. Thousands of YouTube clips breach copyright, but many copyright owners, musicians, actors and film makers don't worry about their clips breaching copyright. They regard it as good publicity, and in any case the jerky, grainy YouTube clips are a poor substitute for the original high-quality videos that are aavailable commercially.

YouTube places the onus on people who post video clips to the YouTube site to honour copyright and removes clips as soon as they become aware of a possible breach of copyright - which usually keeps the copyright owner quiet.

Don't be tempted to put downloaded YouTube clips on your own website, blog, wiki or VLE as this is in breach of copyright and you don't have YouTube's money to fight legal cases! But linking to a video's URL at the YouTube site or embedding the link code is not likely to be a problem. Similarly, be wary of downloading video clips from the Dailymotion site and uploading them to your own website, blog, wiki or VLE.

You should always check the Terms of Use that a website imposes: see above, Section 4. These may usually be found at the foot of the website's homepage.

7. Images

Copyright relating to images is especially sticky. Copyright on images is jealously regarded by their creators, and they are generally well protected under copyright law. You should never copy an image into any work that you intend to disseminate without seeking the author's permission. The are even restrictions on the use of some clipart libraries. You may be allowed to disseminate clipart if it has been declared copyright-free, but this is usually subject to due acknowledgment of the source and, in some cases, the payment of a fee. Check the terms and conditions attached to any clipart library whose resources you wish to use. Look for images that are tagged as Free to Use or that have a Creative Commons Licence.

If you need to use an image in a publication you can buy the rights to publish an image from an image library, e.g.

Compfight and Behold are useful tools for finding images on the Web. See also MorgueFile, which offers "Free images for your inspiration, reference and use in your creative work, be it commercial or not!"

See also the JISC Digital Media website and Graham Davies's Favourite Websites page under the heading Clipart and image libraries.


Published maps are subject to copyright. Check the terms and conditions relating to any map that you scan in and duplicate or download from the Web. There are certain concessions for educational institutions wishing to use Ordnance Survey (OS) maps. See these websites:

Image Repositories for E-learning

See this list of annotated and categorised links to image sources compiled by Fred Riley, University of Nottingham:
Don't be put off by the heading that states that this is one of the School of Nursing's Web pages. The links are useful for anybody creating e-learning materials.

A cautionary tale

See this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-JnPhpGPfI

Here's a brief summary:

A couple in Germany, Marion and Folkert Knieper, have put together an online cookbook with lots of photos taken by Folkert Knieper, e.g. the sort of photos of food that teachers like to use in their worksheets, blogs and online worksheets. The online cookbook includes a lexicon and has lots of links to other sites - which puts it high on Google's hit list if you are doing a search. So you search for an image of tomatoes, carrots, a cup of tea etc, you find the image in the cookbook, copy it and upload it to your website, blog or online worksheet. Now here's the catch: Folkert Knieper uses the image search facility in Google to find his own photos. Bingo! The photo that you have uploaded turns up. Herr Knieper then sends you a bill for using it and takes you to court for breach of copyright if you refuse to pay.

In Germany the law on copyright is much the same as it is in the UK, i.e. if you take a photograph and publish it on the Web you automatically own copyright in the photo unless stated otherwise. Apparently, the Kniepers are making hundreds of thousands of euros out of this venture. Nice little earner, eh? It could catch on...

8. Fair dealing or fair use

You may be able to plead fair dealing, or fair use as it is called in the USA. Both terms crop up frequently in documents relating to copyright and relate mainly to the copying of materials for non-commercial private study, research, criticism or review. Note that the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations (2003) have now tightened up the legislation relating to copying for private study and research. Until the introduction of the Copyright and Related Regulations in October 2003, it was possible to classify any copying for private study or private research purposes as fair dealing. But this has now changed in that if there is any commercial purpose for the research/study for which copying is undertaken this will no longer be considered as fair dealing. See Section 4.1 above.

Making multiple copies of printed materials, for example extracts from books, newspapers and magazines, for distribution to your students is not automatically considered to be fair dealing and can only be carried out under the terms of your Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) licence.

Recording and copying broadcast materials is covered by your Educational Recording Agency (ERA) licence.

You should check that your institution has bought the above licences. If you wish to make multiple copies of materials or distribute them in any other way that is not covered by these licences you need to consult the copyright holder for permission to do so or look for their Terms of Use (see above, Section 4) that state it is acceptable to do so. To go ahead and disseminate without permission is highly inadvisable. You can be sued for infringing copyright and - because you are disseminating - regardless of whether you make a charge or not, the damages and costs could be high.

Electronic materials

Here are some important points relating to fair dealing with regard to electronic materials:

9. The copyright bounty hunter

A new profession, the copyright bounty hunter, is emerging. Copyright bounty hunters use software packages to trawl the Web looking for breaches of copyright and then "shop" the offenders to the copyright owners in exchange for a substantial fee.

There are also people who make a living out of tracking down websites and blogs that use their materials: see above (Section 7) regarding the Kniepers in Germany.

There is also the possibility - and there are documented cases - where a disgruntled employee, student or parent might "shop" a teacher simply out of malice. See the story in Section 3.

10. Protecting resources that you have created

At first sight copyright legislation may appear to subjecting you to all kinds of restrictions, but remember its main function is to protect authors against unfair exploitation of their work, and in many respects teachers are authors too. Schoolteachers and university lecturers typically produce the following types of materials:

It can be argued that teachers are expected to create teaching materials as part of their job, and so copyright in such materials belongs to their educational institution, but this is not clear-cut and you should look carefully at your contract of employment. For example, the writing of a textbook is not an essential component of the contract of employment of teaching staff. Therefore, copyright in textbooks clearly initially belongs to the member of staff. The same rule may also apply to teachers' personal blogs, wikis and websites.

Under recent legislation you will find that even as an employee or a freelancer working under a contract where copyright is assigned to a third party, you still have certain moral rights with regard to anything you create:

You can also ask for your name to be removed from unapproved versions of your work and to request that a notice be attached stating that the work is being issued against your wishes.

See Section 2.7, headed Moral Rights, in Casey (2004).

Using third-party materials: Unless every single aspect of the materials you produce has been designed and created by yourself, other copyright owners (third-parties) may also have a stake in what you produce. This is especially likely in the case of authentic texts, authentic audio and video recordings, and images. See:

For printed materials, your institution's CLA licence is likely to cover your requirements if your materials are used only in-house. Audio and video recordings, however, are subject to a host of rights: If you are in any doubt about how you are allowed to make use of audio and video recordings you should contact the publisher of the item in question if it is a commercial product, or the broadcasting company in the case of a broadcast item.

If you send us any materials that you would like to be included in the resources at the ICT4LT website, you must send us a statement that guarantees that:

If your materials include texts, images, audio recordings, video recordings or musical compositions that you have acquired from other sources you must supply the ICT4LT team with evidence that they are either (a) not subject to copyright or (b) you have permission from the copyright owner(s) to include them in your materials.

You may consider making your work subject to a Creative Commons Licence, as detailed in our own copyright notice at the foot of this page..

11. Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a growing problem, which we refer to in:

See the website of Turnitin, a plagiarism detection service. This makes it possible for institutions and staff to carry out electronic comparison of students' work against electronic sources, including electronic sources containing other students' work.

12. A concluding miscellany

12.1 The Eiffel Tower

Certain national monuments are subject to copyright even if you take a photo of them yourself, e.g. photographs of the Eiffel Tower by night. See the Eiffel Tower website FAQs.

Q: Are you allowed to publish photos of the Eiffel Tower?

A: The views from the Eiffel Tower are rights-free. Permission and rights must be obtained from the "Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel" (the Operating Company, or SETE) for the publication of photos of the illuminated Eiffel Tower.

The reason for this is the copyright that the lighting company claims on the configuration of the lighting that was installed in 2003. It is unlikely that the SNTE would do anything to prevent the publication of pictures of the Eiffel Tower on a personal website consisting of holiday snaps. They might, however, object to the commercialisation of photographs depicting the Eiffel Tower illuminated at night.

12.2 The Lone Cypress

Can you copyright a tree? Everyone who does the 17-mile drive on the coast near Monterey, California, takes a picture of the famous Lone Cypress tree. You can use photos of the tree for private non-commercial purposes but you cannot use photos that you take of the tree in promotional materials, e.g. on the cover of a new travel guide that you have written, because Pebble Beach Golf Club has grabbed the tree as a trademark. If you ask how anybody can own images of nature, the answer is that the tree is on private property owned by the Pebble Beach Company. See: http://www.beachcalifornia.com/lone-cypress-tree.html

12.3 Works of art

You have to be careful about publishing photographs of famous works of art. It's difficult to give general advice as it depends on where the work is displayed and whether it is a two-dimensional work, such as a painting, or a three-dimensional work, such as a sculpture. Read the conditions on entry tickets to public art galleries, as buying a ticket often means that you agree to abide by their rules and conditions, e.g. not taking photographs.

12.4 Taking photographs on private property

The author of this Web page was questioned when taking photographs of his family in a hotel swimming pool. A manager asked whether it was the author's intention to publish the photographs, as permission to do so would have to be sought. The manager was satisfied when assurance was given that the photographs were just for the family album.

12.5 Photographs of people

Publishing photographs of people needs to be treated with caution. Back in the 1990s the TELL Consortium (University of Hull) took a series photographs of students that were to be used as "characters" in a multimedia CD-ROM package. Each student was asked to sign a release form specifying how the photographs were intended to be used and granting permission to do so. Publishing your own photographs of celebrities can be especially problematic, so take care!

12.6 Imitating or adapting a famous photograph

Imitating or adapting a famous photograph could be a problem if the imitation was obviously derivative, e.g. a recognisable composition of the subject matter.

12.7 Happy Birthday

Believe it or not, the song Happy Birthday is subject to copyright. The music and original words "Good Morning to All" were written by Mildred and Patty Hill in 1893. The song was originally intended to be used by teachers to welcome students to class each day. Nobody really knows who wrote the words "Happy Birthday to You" and put them to the Hills' melody, but they first appeared in a songbook edited by Robert Coleman in 1924. The version with the words "Happy Birthday to You" was first copyrighted in 1935 and copyright now rests with the Time Warner company. Does this mean you can't legally sing Happy Birthday to your family and friends? No, but be wary about attempting to use Happy Birthday in any kind of publication. Watch the credits at the end of films in which the song is sung! See: http://www.unhappybirthday.com

12.8 A Fair(y) Use Tale

A Fair(y) Use Tale: An amusing video on YouTube, compiled by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University (USA), from lots of clips from Disney cartoons. The video summarises the following issues relating to copyright law in the USA - which are also relevant to a large extent in UK law:

  1. Copyright definition
  2. What things can be copyrighted?
  3. Duration and the public domain
  4. Fair use

Also accessible at the wesbite of The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

12.9 Wild Mountain Thyme

I have seen the song Wild Mountain Thyme referred to as a traditional Scottish song many times. In fact, it is only loosely based on a traditional Scottish ballad called The Braes of Balquhidder. The words and the tune, which are quite different from those of the Scottish ballad, were written by Francis (Frankie) McPeake of Belfast, who first recorded it in 1957. The song is still subject to copyright, which is owned by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. My friend Brian Farrington (who knew the McPeakes) tells this interesting story (p. 212) in his autobiography, A rich soup with additional material, published by Linden Publishing, Dublin:

And then there as the story of the time that Joan Baez came to call on him [Frankie McPeake] in Belfast. What had happened was that she had been singing a song of the McPeakes, the Wild Mountain Thyme (Will ye go, lassie go?) and her agent and whoever published the McPeake records were at loggerheads over copyright. Baez, who was giving a concert in some concert hall in the city, came down the Falls Road in her enormous limousine to tell Frankie that, whatever about the agents and their lawyers, she would see that he got whatever he was due if she sang his song. "Ai tooled 'er," said Frankie, "Thut she shud navver huv come doon the street un thot cawr. They'll hov the whayls off of ut."

13. Copyright and virtual worlds

The advent of virtual worlds such as Second Life (see Section 14.2.1 of Module 1.5) has thrown up a host of new copyright issues regarding the creation of images and the production of videos using Second Life screenshots. See the thread in Nergiz Kern's blog, titled Recording video in SL – copyright issues. Nergiz refers to David Miller's video, titled Contacting copyright owners in second life, which contains useful information about obtaining permissions if you intend to publish a video recording including Second Life screenshots.

The are also important ethical issues to consider when publishing research data relating to virtual worlds. Randall Sadler gave a very informative presentation on ethical issues at EUROCALL 2008: Ethical standards for research in virtual worlds: a call to virtual arms. Essentially, you have to be very careful about presenting data that includes references to avatars in the same way as you have to be careful about presenting data that refers to real persons - i.e. because there is a real person behind every avatar.

References for further information

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Document last updated 5 March 2012. This page is maintained by Graham Davies.

Please cite this Web page as:
Davies G. (2012) General guidelines on copyright. In Davies G. (ed.) Information and Communications Technology for Language Teachers (ICT4LT), Slough, Thames Valley University [Online]. Available at: http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_copyright.htm [Accessed DD Month YYYY].

© Sarah Davies in association with MDM creative. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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