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This information gives a brief overview of copyright and its practical implications for your activities as students, teachers and researchers. It is based on current UK Copyright Law. It does not constitute legal advice, but is intended to provide guidance and information. The full text of the most up to date legislation on copyright and intellectual property can be found on the Government's website.

If you are currently working or studying remotely and are based overseas, you will need to check the legal requirements of the country in which you are located to ensure that you comply with local legislation.

Copyright and what is protected

Copyright is legal protection for an author or creator which restricts copies being made of the original work. Anything printed, written, designed or recorded in any form (e.g. as part of a formal publication, music, films, images, broadcasts or computer software) is subject to the protection of copyright or a related right.

Students, researchers, and teachers will need to use copyrighted materials on an almost daily basis. Having a clear understanding of what the law allows - and of the exceptions which apply to the educational use of such material - is, therefore, important.

Just because something is freely available on the internet does not mean that it is not protected by copyright law. It is up to you to make sure that you are not using materials illegally.

Some authors and creators use Creative Commons licences to indicate what you can do with their work without the need to ask for their permission. Creative Commons Search is a useful source of content which has been specifically licenced for re-use and for sharing.

  • UK copyright law allows anyone to make a copy from another's work for the purpose of private study, providing the original has been legally accessed and that the amount copied constitutes 'fair dealing'
    • You may also makes copies for research, providing this is for non-commercial purposes
    • You can copy the material yourself or the Library can make a copy for you. If you ask the Library, you will need to declare that you have not previously been supplied with a copy of the same material (including by another library) and you will only use the copy for private study or non-commercial research. You will also be asked to confirm that will not give copies of the material to anyone else. You can read the full declaration on the Library's copy request form
  • If you have a disability and need access to a resource in an alternative, more accessible format, you can request this through the University's Disability Services. More information on this service

When including quotations from or references to others' work in your assignments and projects, you need to ensure they are fully attributed and referenced. The Library has some helpful guidance on referencing.

You might also like to consult the Library's online courses which include Introduction to Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism - both of which will give you a thorough grounding in referencing and how to avoid plagiarism.

Including short, fully referenced quotations in your assignments will not infringe the copyright of the original author.

Include images

  • If you are including an image in your work, it should be clearly attributed with details of both the creator of the image and the rights holder
  • If you are looking for images you can legally include in your work, the Library provides access to the Artstor database, a huge library of images for use in teaching, learning and research
  • You can also use Creative Commons licensed images, as long as you comply with the terms of the licence
  • If you need to include an image in your assignment which is not available via Artstor and is not CC-licensed the exception for criticism or review may apply, but the use must be 'fair' and the image must be attributed

Copyright in theses and dissertations

These exceptions apply to the examination copy of an assignment, but not if you are making your work more widely available. If you are a PhD student and intending to deposit your thesis in the Warwick Research Archive Portal (WRAP), you need to treat this in the same way as a published output. See the section on copyright for authors: using other people's work for more information.

The following guidance on using third party materials in your teaching is based on current UK copyright law.

Risk management

  • One way to be certain that you are not infringing copyright is to only use material where the rightsholder has given their explicit permission for re-use. In reality, clearing rights for everything you want to include in your teaching would be time consuming and impractical
  • Fortunately, there are a number of copyright exceptions and licensing schemes which allow you to use third party content without seeking permission directly from the rightsholder. These allow you to make use of a wide range of materials, providing the use could be considered 'fair' and the amount of material is reasonable and / or within the allowed limits
  • Exceptions can't cover every instance of re-use and there may still be circumstances in which you do need to ask the rightsholder, but asking permission where absolutely necessary and using exceptions for the rest will reduce the burden considerably. You should never ignore the fact that the material you are using may be protected by copyright
  • When making decisions about what you can and can't use, the most important thing is to manage the amount of risk that you are exposing yourself and the University to. Consider whether the use will infringe the rightsholder's copyright and how likely it is that they would pursue a claim against you and/or the University (as your employer) if the infringement were to be identified. It is up to you to prove that a particular exception applies, not the other way round
  • When deciding whether to use other people's work in your teaching (whether in a presentation / lecture or embedded in a Moodle course), you should also consider:
    • why you are including the material and how you want the students to engage with it
    • how your students will be accessing it; and
    • where they will be accessing from. If your students will be based outside of the UK when they access the material, local copyright laws will apply and you may not be able to rely on UK copyright exceptions. The exceptions in the country where the student is based may be more or less permissive than in the UK and you need to bear this in mind. Remember it is the student who will be infringing, not the University

If you have any concerns or queries about the risks involved in providing third party content to your students, please contact us at lib dot copyright at warwick dot ac dot uk.

Lecture capture

The University's guidance on the use of Lecture capture gives information on safeguarding copyright and intellectual property whilst using Lecture Capture software.

JISC have also produced guidelines on the legal implications of recording lectures.

For ease of reference, the advice on using third party materials in your teaching been divided into three sections, each covering a different category of material. Each section covers some of the key practical considerations you need to take into account:

The University has a CLA licence which provides for the use of copyright material for teaching purposes. Teachers can also reproduce extracts of copyright material for "the purpose of giving or receiving instruction" under UK copyright exceptions

  • This could be in the context of delivering a lecture (recorded or otherwise) or for inclusion in online teaching modules, handouts or examination questions
  • However, all copyright material must be clearly attributed and referenced, and the amount included should be 'reasonable'

If you need to provide online readings for your students you should request these from the Library using the Course Extracts service rather than relying on exceptions.

You can rely on exceptions when providing short excerpts of text, for example a few sentences or paragraphs. This must be reasonable and (not put the copyright holder at a financial disadvantage).

Please contact us at lib dot copyright at warwick dot ac dot uk if you need further advice on this.

Providing digitised scans of chapters / journal articles

The Library's Course Extracts service enables you to embed digitised content in your Reading Lists. This is the best way to make this type of material available to students - the Library will ensure that all extracts comply with the terms of the CLA licence and students will receive seamless and stable access to the content they need. See more information on what you are allowed to copy and on how to access the service.

The preferred approach should be to link to an electronic copy of the material (an e-journal article or an e-book). If the Library's only copy is in print form, Library staff will scan the required chapter or article for inclusion in your Reading List at your request.

You may have seen that the CLA have recently announced a relaxation of the allowable limit on what can be copied for the academic session 2020-21 to support teachers and students at this challenging time. They have announced that a maximum of two, rather than one, chapters can be copied from a single work - but only if an e-book version is not commercially available. This caveat effectively ensures that in almost all cases, only a single chapter can be copied as most print books can be made available digitally via expensive third party subscription models. The University is therefore advising students and staff that the original 10% or one chapter limit should be worked to.

When including images in your teaching, you may be able to use copyright exceptions to reproduce these without the permission of the rightsholder. However, you need to consider what the purpose of the image is and why you need to include it in your teaching materials.

Section 32 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 permits the use of third party materials for the purpose of giving or receiving instruction, providing the use is fair, i.e.

  • it would not prevent the rightsholder from selling a copy of the work
  • you use only as much of the work as you need to

You must also include an acknowledgement, unless this is impractical. As you are likely to want to use the whole image, rather than an extract, you may want to use a low resolution version. This makes it easier to argue that your re-use of the image will not adversely affect sales of the original.

When using third party images, illustrations and diagrams in your teaching consider whether:

  • You already have permission to use this image for the current purpose. For example:
    • You may have already cleared the rights to use the image in your teaching; or
    • o The creator has granted reuse rights under a specific licence, for example a Creative Commons license (see 'image sources for teaching' below)
  • You need to use this particular image. Is there an alternative that doesn't require specific permission?
  • It is for the purpose of instruction? Using an image for decoration or illustration is unlikely to be covered under the educational exception
  • You have provided a suitable acknowledgement. You should try wherever possible to identify the creator of the work and provide an attribution. TinEye is a reverse image search engine that can help you identify the original source of an image
Image sources for teaching
  • The Library provides access to the Artstor database, a huge library of high quality images for use in teaching, learning and research
  • You can also use Creative Commons licensed images, as long as you comply with the terms of the licence. Use CC Search to find images and other materials licensed for reuse
Requesting permission to use images
  • When asking a rightsholder for permission to use an image in your teaching, it is best to make the request as wide as possible. For example, if you ask for permission to use the image in your lectures, this would not automatically allow you to embed it in a Moodle course
  • If you are using images from your own published work, do make sure that your author agreement allows this. If you have signed copyright over to your publisher, you may need to seek permission, or use an exception, even though you are the creator

Using audiovisual materials can enrich your teaching, but it is also the most complex area when it comes to copyright. Existing licensing schemes and exceptions will cover most uses, but you will need to consider on case-by-case basis, which of these will apply to your intended use. This will depend on the type of material you want to use, the original source and whether you are using clips / extracts or complete works.

We would recommend that you contact us at lib dot copyright at warwick dot ac dot uk for further advice, particularly if you are looking to include film in your teaching.

TV & Radio broadcasts

The University has an ERA licence which allows teachers to use UK TV and Radio content for educational purposes. Box of Broadcasts is an excellent source of material licensed under ERA and is the easiest way of including audiovisual content in your teaching. You can:

  • record programmes and access an extensive archive from over 65 free to air channels
  • create playlists of material, embed individual titles in your Reading Lists and create short clips for use as illustration within lecture presentations and online courses

The ERA licence also allows you to make your own recordings of UK TV and radio broadcasts - but not all broadcasters are covered and there are limits on what you and your students can do with the recordings. For example, you can embed a recording to a secure VLE, such as Moodle, but you cannot post it to online video sharing platforms, e.g.YouTube, Vimeo. The ERA website includes a comprehensive guide to what is permitted under the licence and we would recommend that you read this before making and sharing broadcast materials.

Film screenings and other public performances

The ERA licence allows you to screen entire films available from BoB, or which you have recorded yourself from a channel which is part of the ERA scheme. However, it does not cover films or programmes from other sources.

There is an exception in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, Section 34 which allows you to show a entire film or broadcast on University premises to an audience of University of Warwick staff or students for educational purposes, as long as the University has legally acquired a copy of the film. So, for example, you could use this exception to show a film on DVD as part of a module.

It does not allow you to show films for entertainment or to a mixed audience. This includes parents and other family members.

Showing films online
  • Section 34 refers specifically to in person screenings to a University audience on University premises. It does not allow you to livestream a film or broadcast, embed a copy in a Moodle course or include it as part of a recorded lecture.
  • Section 32 provides a general exception for the re-use of a 'reasonable' amount of third party material for 'the purpose of instruction' regardless of format. This should cover the use of short clips in your teaching, providing the material has been acquired legally. Showing full films or programmes is more complex and we would encourage you to contact the Library at lib dot copyright at warwick dot ac dot uk to discuss the specific requirements of your course. You should also contact us if using a clip in your teaching requires transferring it to another format, e.g. from DVD to MP4 or another digital format.
YouTube and other online platforms
  • Do not share audiovisual materials with your students to public platforms, as these are not covered by the educational exemptions or the ERA licence
  • You should also exercise extreme caution when using clips and full programmes you have found online, particularly platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. You should only share materials from these sources where you can be sure that the poster is also the rightsholder. You should not be directing your students to infringing content, even if you have not uploaded it yourself

Copyright and Intellectual Property in the outputs that you produce as a member of the University is covered by Regulation 28. This states that copyright in Scholarly Works, including text and artwork for publication in books, journal articles, papers, abstracts, theses, dissertations and creative works (such as plays and lyrics) rests with the author or creator and not with the University of Warwick.

See the full text of the regulation for other types of output, including inventions, designs, software and audiovisual materials.

Assigning copyright to a publisher

Most traditional publishing contracts require you to assign the copyright in your work to the publisher. This means that, once you have signed the author agreement, you would need the publisher’s permission to reproduce the work elsewhere.

For example, if you publish an article that you later want to include as a chapter in a research monograph, the publisher would need to agree to this. You can find out more about how request permission in the section on using other’s work in your own publications below.

Licence to publish

An alternative to assigning copyright is to grant a licence to publish. In this type of arrangement, you retain copyright, but give the publisher exclusive distribution rights. Not all publishers will offer these terms, although some publishers, for example Nature and The Royal Society, use a licence to publish as standard.

Open Access and Creative Commons licences

In Open Access publishing, authors usually retain copyright in the published output and a Creative Commons licence is applied. The CC licence lets anyone wishing to reuse your work what they are allowed to do with it without asking your permission.

  • For example, applying a CC BY licence to your work means that the work can be used for any purpose, but you must be attributed
  • Other licences are more restrictive, for example you can use the CC BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial) licence to limit reuse of your work to non-commercial purposes
  • Some research funders require a specific licence to be applied to published outputs
  • If you are not sure which licence to apply, there is more information at Why Open Access or contact

Depending on your publisher’s policy, you may be able to deposit a copy of your work in the Warwick Research Archive Portal (WRAP) with a Creative Commons licence.

If someone wishes to use your work in a way not permitted by the CC BY licence, they can still ask you if you are willing to give permission, but it is up to you as the copyright holder to decide.

If you are publishing your research – or making it available online – and it includes material that is still in copyright which you did not create yourself, you must make sure that you either have the correct permissions or that you are able to clearly demonstrate that there is a relevant exception under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

This includes making a copy of your PhD thesis available via Warwick Research Archive Portal (WRAP). You cannot rely on educational exceptions to copyright law if your work is being made public, we have more guidance on thesis submission available.

Quotation, criticism and review

You may be able to use some material created by a third party under the ‘fair dealing’ provision. So, for example, if you are quoting from a work so you can critique it, this would be classed as criticism and review and would not need permission. However, this must be reasonable, so you may need to contact the copyright holder if you are reproducing a longer passage. If you are not sure whether the amount is reasonable or not, consider how you would feel if it was your own work.

The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers has produced some useful guidance on quotations and excerpts.

Request permission

Although the exception for quotation, criticism and review applies to all types of material, you are advised to seek permission of the copyright holder to use the following:

  • Photographs
  • Illustrations, models and diagrams
  • Scanned images of artworks and unpublished documents, such as manuscripts, diaries or ledgers
  • Embedded audio and video files
  • Maps
  • Patented materials

You may also need permission to include material you have already published elsewhere if you have assigned the copyright in that material to someone else, e.g. your publisher.

Incidental inclusion of copyrighted material, for example, a film poster appearing in the background of a video, does not need permission.

You do not need to clear the rights to Creative Commons-licensed materials, as long as you are using them in a way allowed by the licence.

As soon as possible. It is much easier if you collect your permissions as you go along, rather than leave it all until the end. You should aim to have everything in place by the time your publication enters the production stage, as your publisher may want to charge you for removing uncleared content after this point.

If the material has been published, it is a good idea to start by contacting the publisher. Most will provide clear information on how to request permission. There may be an online form you can complete, but if not, you may find these example templates useful.

It can take a long time to hear back from a rights holder, but you must be sure you have permission before using the materials. You should not go ahead and assume that the answer will be yes. You should also be prepared to pay a fee, particualarly if the rights holder is a commercial publisher.

Keep copies of all correspondence and make sure that you clearly indicate in your work that permission has been granted.

Quick links

Reading Lists: guidance for academic staff

External links

Others have made some useful guides which, rather than paraphrase, we're sharing here:

Contact us

If you have a question about copyright, email the Scholarly Communications Manager lib dot copyright at warwick dot ac dot uk or your department's Academic Support Librarian.