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As an academic you will invariably want to use copyright works in some way to support your teaching. For example, you may want to:

  • hand out photocopied or scanned extracts from books and journals
  • include images in your lecture slides
  • add digitised materials to your reading lists

 This page provides information on how you can use copyrighted materials in your teaching.

Lectures and Course Materials

You are permitted to copy limited amounts of copyright material provided it is for non-commercial teaching purposes.  This applies to copying by a person giving or receiving instruction, or preparing for giving or receiving instruction. This exception which is part of copyright legislation, is called 'illustration for instruction'.

The use of copyright works in the classroom/lecture theatre must be subject to the 'fair dealing' test:

  • Use of the work must be accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement
  • You must take care to only use the work to solely illustrate the point, not to make slides look nice!
  • You may also rely on the quotation exception
  • The use of the material is fair 

Copying and using extracts from print material for student handouts and for inclusion in the DLE is usually done under the terms of the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Licence.. 

Access to complete broadcasts and films is bound by the terms of the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) Licence.

Book Chapters and Articles

The CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) license covers the photocopying and scanning from most, but not all, UK publications, and a number of US and international publishers.

Your copies must fall within the limits of whichever is the greater, 10% or:

  • one chapter of a book
  • one article of a journal issue
  • one paper of one set of conference proceedings
  • one report of a single case from a report of judicial proceedings
  • one short story or one poem of not more than 10 pages in an anthology of short stories or poems

Scanned materials have to be placed on a University site, we use Leganto online reading lists. 
Submit a digitisation request for an item on your reading list by following the guidance on the Leganto Digitisation Library Guide page.

If a work is not covered by the CLA license, permission to copy should be obtained. For help contact

Printed photocopies for students

As long as the copying is within the CLA guidelines as indicated above, you can provide students with a photocopy.  Students and the tutor can be provided with ONE copy only.

Lecture Capture (Panopto/Zoom)

The issue of copyright is very important when a lecture is to be recorded and added to a module site in the DLE. Many materials which could be used in lectures, including text, film, sound recordings, images etc., are covered under copyright law. When considering whether the use of these materials is copyright-compliant for use in a lecture that is to be recorded, there are two aspects to take into account:

  1. Use of materials whose copyright is owned by the University of Plymouth
  • If the lecture includes materials which have been created in the course of employment at the University of Plymouth, or copyright has been assigned to the University of Plymouth, then you can use the resources in the lecture, and record it, without risk of copyright infringement.
  1. Use of materials whose copyright is NOT owned by the University of Plymouth – (‘Third-Party’ Materials)

If your lecture includes material whose copyright is owned by third-parties, (i.e. publishers), it is the responsibility of each staff member not to infringe the intellectual property rights of these third-parties when they are used in lectures.

If lectures contain such material, to avoid risk, either a copyright exception (see below), or direct permission to use the work must apply to use the materials legitimately. In short, third-party materials may require permission for use/inclusion, unless one of the following statutory copyright exceptions applies:

Permission to Use Third-Party Materials using Copyright Exceptions for Education:

  • The material is included solely to illustrate a point;
  • The material is included for the purpose of criticism or review;
  • The material is being used for quotation;
  • The material is included for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche;

For any of the above copyright exceptions to be applied, the use of the material must also come under the concept of ‘fair-dealing’, i.e:-

  • The amount of the material used must be reasonable and appropriate to the specific purpose - usually only part of a work may be used.
  • Use of the material must not interfere with the commercial interests of the rights holder
  • The material must not be used for commercial purposes;
  • The material must be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement/attribution;

Audio-Visual Materials (inc. TV broadcasts, film, DVDs, etc.)

The right to perform, play, show or record a work for educational purposes is covered by an exception in the law. Therefore, if you are playing music or showing a play, film or other work to students as part of a course of study this is permitted.

The Educational Recording Agency (ERAlicence permits the University to record programmes from a range of TV channels and for them to be recorded onto DVD.  The license also allows the University to subscribe to the online Box of Broadcasts (BoB) service, which can be used by students and staff in the UK to record TV and radio programmes, both for teaching and private study, and then to view the programmes in their web browser and via the DLE..

The ERA license also permits students and staff in the UK to access and download content from on-demand services such as the BBC iPlayer, 4-on-Demand, ITV Player, Demand 5, and Clic (S4C) for educational purposes. Linking to these services from within the DLE is permitted, but due to the short-term availability of many of the recordings, BoB may offer a better solution.


Film and video (inc. DVDs)

UK legislation has some allowances for the copying and use of film and video material, for example:

  • A film may be shown to an audience consisting of lecturers and students and other persons directly connected with the activities of the University, providing it is shown: (a) by a lecturer or pupil in the course of an activity at the University, or (b) at the University by any person for the purposes of instruction, (i.e. ‘illustration for instruction’)
  • A lecturer may copy from a film if this is for purposes of criticism and review, for example in a lecture to students, with the following provisos:
    • the work must have previously been made available to the public,
    • no more is copied than is necessary, (i.e. ‘fair dealing’), for example to make the critical point in question,
    • the copy must be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement wherever possible.


TV broadcasts / BoB (Box of Broadcasts)

We have a licence with the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) which permits staff to record, for non-commercial educational purposes, television and radio outputs, (but that many digital-only broadcasters are not covered by the ERA Licence). Staff may show broadcasts from the BBC iPlayer, the ITV Player and Channel 4's 4oD service providing this is for educational purposes but these may not be recorded.   You may also use our Box of Broadcasts (BoB) service to make your own collection of TV clips and programmes.

Appropriate recordings can be retained, stored and copied and shown within the University, for example shown in the classroom or lecture theatre.  Recordings may be made available via the DLE (Moodle) with the proviso that they are not accessible outside the UK.

Images/ Artistic Works

Using Images

As with text-based material images and artistic works are all covered by copyright whether they are from print or electronic sources. The types of images may include graphs, charts, diagrams, fine art, illustrations, cartoons, photographs etc.

  • Copyright for artistic works lasts for 70 years from the death of the creator

  • Usually the photographer owns copyright for their own photographs

  • For employees who take photographs as part of their duties, copyright would normally belong to the employer

To help with the legal and ethical use of images, it is suggested that you focus on the types of image you are easily permitted to re-use. Creative Commons licensed images, copyright free (public domain) and educational content collections are often appropriate sources to draw upon. Always check the terms and conditions of re-use.

  • Use caution if sourcing images online; does the person posting the image have permission to do so? Is it the original, authentic digital version?

  • Use image collections which are licensed for educational use or licensed Creative Commons images (see Sources of Images section)

  • It may not be free to copy or distribute an image without the permission of the rights holder or the payment of a fee. Royalty free is not copyright free

  • You should always acknowledge and attribute the source of any image you decide to use


Using images for educational purposes

Third-party copyright images which are integral to your work as a lecturer or student may be legally defensible as ‘Illustration for Instruction’.  Typical educational scenarios in which you may not need the rights-holder's permission to utilise their image include:

  • projecting a reproduction of an artwork for discussion in a lecture 

  • utilising a figure from a textbook in a course handout

  • taking a screenshot from social media for an assignment

  • sharing an image file with peers for a group project.

Your image caption or credits should reiterate any copyright statement or licence terms indicated at the source.  It is good practice too to look for images which are licensed for re-use in an educational context or are openly available/copyright free (i.e. Creative Commons)


Recommended sources of images

Remember that even if free to use, all re-used images should be acknowledged.  The creator of an image may release it with a Creative Commons licence,  which provides a simple, standardised way to grant copyright permissions to their work.  Many image libraries allow you to filter search results by licence status: for instance CC0 (in the public domain, no attribution required), CC BY (free to re-use with attribution) or CC BY-NC (free to re-use in a non-commercial context).  The CC Search tool enables you to search multiple libraries simultaneously.  Here are some sources of free images:-

  • Creative Commons search

  • Wikimedia Commons

  • Pixabay (images are free to re-use and attribution is not required)

  • Unsplash (images are free to re-use and attribution is not required though is appreciated)

  • Everystockphoto - an image search engine allowing access to photos from many sources.

  • Visual Arts Data Service (VADS) - Over 100,000 images that are freely available and copyright cleared for use in learning, teaching and research in the UK.

  • Flickr Commons - uses photography archives from many major institutions and collections including the British Library, National Library of Wales, National Library of Scotland, and the National Science and Media Museum


Logos / trade marks

Logos are nearly always protected and should not be used without seeking permission of the copyright holder.  You can use a brand name or image (logo) showing a branded product in the classroom as long as the context is clearly educational.  You should add the ™ symbol next to the logo to reinforce that the logo is protected by a trademark (or ® if the official logo includes this symbol).  However, if you wanted to include images of a branded product in a textbook or teaching materials available publicly online, then you should always seek permission as you could be liable for trademark infringement if considered that you are potentially using a product image for profit. 

Music and Performance

Music and musical works

Copyright for Musical Works usually lasts from 70 years of the death of the last known author.  For operas, specifically, copyright lasts for 70 years from the death of either the librettist or the composer, whichever is longer-lived.  If the author is unknown, then the copyright lasts for 70 years from when the music was first made public - e.g. performed. For Sound Recordings the copyright is 50 years after the death of the longest-lived author, or 70 years from the date it was published or made public. 

In most cases permission is always needed before using or reusing any piece of musical work.  However, UK law allows lecturers and students to play recorded music or use printed music“ at an educational establishment” for “instruction”, whether or not it is licensed for educational use.  This falls within the exception allowance (‘fair dealing’), of using a piece of the work rather than the entire work.

Musical performances

A performance by either a staff member or a student for an audience of staff, students, and others connected with the activities of the institution is not considered copyright infringement. However, what you are performing still needs to be taken into accountFor example, if you are performing a piece that you have arranged yourself, you still need to follow copyright guidelines and seek permission (if the work is still in copyright) in order to create your own arrangement in the first place.  If you are going to perform in another venue, that venue should have a proper licence in order for them to be allowed to hold performances of live music without infringing copyright.

Dance and Live perforamce ('dramatic work')

Alongside copyright, there are separate protections offered to performers known as ‘performers’ rights’. These provide several rights for performers in relation to their performances. A performer can be anyone who acts, sings, delivers, plays in, or otherwise performs a literary, dramatic or musical work.  The GOV.UK site gives more information and guidance on Performers’ rights.


In the UK, public exhibition is not an act restricted by copyright. This means that it is not an infringement of copyright to put a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work on public display (for example, in a display cabinet in a museum or gallery).

Despite it being lawful to exhibit a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, it would usually be an infringement of copyright to perform such a work in public. This means that, although a musical or dramatic work in the form of writing or notation can be put on display (for example, the script of a play or a piece of sheet music), the public performance of such a work would be restricted by copyright. The term “performance” would include delivery of the work in lectures, addresses, speeches or sermons, as well as any mode of visual or acoustic presentation. Similarly, playing or showing a sound recording, film or broadcast in a public place would usually be an infringement of copyright. However, certain exceptions to the public performance right exist. For example, in HE we are permitted to perform, play or show copyright works without infringing copyright, provided it is done for the purposes of instruction and the audience is solely composed of individuals directly connected to the establishment (i.e. staff and students).  The GOV.UK site gives more in-depth detail here.


Material found on websites can only be used in accordance with the copyright terms and conditions of that particular site. Please check these individually and if in doubt seek permission from the website owner. If no specific conditions are indicated on the website then you can generally print or download single copies for private study or non-commercial research. You should seek permission for multiple copies or commercial research.

The best way to avoid any copyright issues surrounding using material on websites is to use and direct students to the particular site by supplying a direct link, rather than taking material from the site.  Therefore, keep this in mind when adding materials to a DLE module site or your online reading list (Leganto).  Best practice is always to share the URL rather than embed the actual content.

Social Media (inc. YouTube)

It is important to remember that posting or uploading anything to the internet counts as publishing. Just as you would not publish someone else’s journal article or photographs in a book without their permission, the same applies to the internet.  Even if you are only communicating via social media with one or two individuals, remember that whatever you post is generally public and the world can see it!

Many social media sites have no copyright filter, so they will not necessarily prevent you from uploading copyrighted content. If a claim is made against something you have uploaded, the site will most often remove the content and sometimes suspend your account. Under the licence you agreed to when registering for an account, you are liable for anything you upload, not the website. Just remember, just because something is easy to do, that doesn’t make it legal. Think about what you want to share before doing so – if you didn’t create it or you don’t have permission, whether granted specifically to you or granted openly via a copyright statement or open licence, don’t share it. Linking to material on another site or wherever you found it is always better than uploading it yourself.

It is always important to read the terms and conditions of any social media site before registering for an account. In most cases you will retain the copyright to anything that you create or post using the social media site.  However, almost all social media sites have a clause that states that you are granting them a world-wide, non-exclusive, royalty-free licence (often with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, adapt, process, distribute, publish etc.  In effect, this means that you continue to own your content, but that Facebook (or Twitter or LinkedIn, etc.) have the right to use your material in any way they see fit, without paying you or even asking your permission.

In the case of YouTube, this site can be a really useful teaching and learning tool.  It is important that you link to it correctly by either providing the hyperlink or correctly embedding the code given by YouTube. If you suspect any content to be illegally uploaded to YouTube, avoid linking to it. If you cannot identify and give appropriate attribution to the source then do not use it.  The British Library have advice on the use of YouTube here and advice directly from YouTube 

Conferences and public lectures

Using other people's material without their permission at a conference or public lecture could potentially breach their copyright - the legal exceptions and licences which allow you to use third party material for teaching may not apply.  Using a photo, illustration or multimedia to illustrate your talk may be difficult to defend as 'Quotation', unless it's the subject of your discussion.  Where possible, take advantage of material released with a Creative Commons licence. However, If you are using material released under a Creative Commons licence, ensure that you adhere to the terms.

Be especially careful if your audience has paid for tickets, or your presentation will be recorded for wider distribution.   If you are the conference organiser, you should ask your speakers' permission before recording the event. Consider also asking speakers to confirm that they have permission to use any third-party material that features in their presentation.

Digitisations (for Leganto online reading lists)

The Library can digitise extracts, chapters and articles under the terms of our CLA/HE licence and add these to your reading list, (Leganto).  If the Library does not stock the source material then we can often purchase a copyright-cleared digital copy from the British Library. You can request a digitisation from within your Leganto reading list and we will either scan the item internally or obtain a copyright fee-paid copy from the British Library and link the digitised chapter or article to the online reading list.  For more details on requesting digitised chapters/articles, refer to the Leganto guide.

We are usually able to reproduce either a single chapter from a book or a single article from a journal for use by students registered on a particular module. In the case of various extracts from a book, the licence now allows up to 10% of the work to be copied.

The Licence is subject to individual publisher agreements with the CLA. Check the CLA Title Search to see whether a publication is covered by the Licence for the intended use (photocopying, scanning or re-use of digital material).

Limits of the Licence

Up to the following may be copied under the Licence:

  • One whole chapter from a book
  • One whole article from a journal issue
  • One short story, poem or play (not exceeding 10 pages in length) from an anthology
  • One whole paper from a set of conference proceedings
  • One whole report of a single case from a volume of judicial proceedings
  • or 10% of a book, journal issue or anthology, whichever is the greater.

Note:  It is good practice to link to an external source of information, (eg, a journal article), and not to upload your own scans / digitisations to the DLE (Moodle) or your Leganto reading list.

Government Papers

Copyright in certain categories of officially published materials has been waived in the interests of open government. This means that although copyright is asserted, users are permitted to copy or publish the material in any medium without having to seek formal permission, provided that the material is reproduced accurately and not in a misleading context, and the source is acknowledged.  Find out more about the Open Government Licence.  Open Government Licence also has Guidance for Users (PDF) that can be downloaded.

Information about which categories of material are subject to a waiver is given in a series of guidance notes, which are available on the HMSO website.

Parliament encourages you to use material made available by the House of Commons or the House of Lords in which copyright or database rights remain in force.  Use of Parliamentary material is governed by the terms of the Open Parliament Licence which can be found here.

It is essential to check the licence and what can be done with the materials in each case.

Creative Commons / Open access images

Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity through free legal tools. CC licenses let you change the copyright terms of your work from, 'all rights reserved' to 'some rights reserved'.

Creative Commons licences

Creative Commons Licences are a type of open licences that you can apply to your work to indicate you are happy to share the work under certain conditions.

They are sometimes described as an alternative to copyright, however Creative Commons does not mean you give up the copyright in your work, or your right to be acknowledged as the creator of a work. Typically Creative Commons licences are added to online content, and search engines are increasingly able to identify content that has been shared under these licences because in addition to the legal document, there is a machine readable licence.

There are six different licence types, with the most permissive being the CC-BY (Creative Commons Attribution) License and most restrictive being the CC-BY-NC-ND (Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives) licence. The licences allow you to specify if you wish your work to be used for commercial purposes and if you require the person re-using your work to share it under the same licence, or if you are happy with derivative works being created from your work. 

Licence Type Abbreviation Description



CC-BY This licence lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licences offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

Attribution NonCommercial

creative commons logo

CC-BY-NC This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work for non-commercial purposes, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution NoDerivatives

creative commons logo

CC-BY-ND This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you. 

Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike

creative commons logo

CC-BY-NC-SA This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work for non-commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Attribution NonCommercialNoDerivs

creative commons logo

CC-BY-NC-ND This licence is the most restrictive of the six licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.


Open access and freely reusable content

You can search for free content in the public domain and under the Creative Commons licences here.  Other free to use image and photographic sites include:-