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Teaching Support: Copyright for Teaching

What is Copyright?

If you use third-party copyright materials as a part of your teaching, you need to make sure that your usage is legal. The information on this page is advisory and is not intended as legal advice. 

Copyright is a system of law designed to give creators of original works the right to control the ways in which their works are used. Protected works include written material, dramatic works, music, websites, databases, sound recordings, films, broadcasts, art works, photographs, sculptures, translations and typographical layout. Works do not have to be published to be protected. Most artistic works are protected irrespective of artistic quality (however, this is a requirement for works of architecture and artistic craftsmanship).

Copyright lasts for a fixed term period. This varies depending on the format of the work in question, but as a general rule copyright expires 70 years after the death of the creator. Following this period, works fall into the public domain.

Copyright law in the UK is defined by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). Copyrighted material can only be used if you have the express permission of the copyright holder, it is available under licence (where applicable), or if your usage falls under one of the Fair Dealing exceptions to UK copyright law. 

Fair Dealing makes provision within the law to legally reproduce limited sections of copyrighted work for various purposes, including for teaching, within certain restrictions. More information about Fair Dealing can be found on Gov.UK website.

Copyright for Teaching

The use of materials protected by copyright is essential for education, so using these works for teaching purposes is expressly permitted under the Fair Dealing exceptions for Illustration for Instruction (s.32 CDPA), with the following restrictions:

  • The work must be directly related to your teaching, and not included for decorative purposes.
  • You only use the amount that is necessary to make the point.
  • Full attribution of the source must be given (unless doing so is impossible, such as in examinations).
  • The usage must not infringe the commercial rights of the copyright holder, impact on commercial sales of the original or thereby render the need for students to purchase their own copies unnecessary.
  • The work is not available under the terms of a licence held by the University.

Provided your usage meets all five of these criteria, then your use could be said to be Fair Dealing.

The University holds a licence from the Copyright Licencing Agency (CLA) to permit staff to make copies for the purposes of teaching. The CLA licence grants rights that go beyond 'Fair Dealing', but remains within strict limitations. See the following tabs, or the page on Reading Lists and Digitisation for more information.

‘Illustration for instruction’ does not extend to making copies of texts for students to use in the classroom. Instead, this is done under the terms of a licence. The CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) Licence allows us to digitise from most printed books, journals and magazines produced in the UK, as well as some overseas publications, for student course materials.

The terms of the CLA Licence outline the following restrictions:

  • one chapter of a book.
  • one article from a journal.
  • one paper from one set of conference proceedings.
  • one scene from a play.
  • one poem/story(not exceeding 10 pages in length) from an anthology.
  • one case of one report of judicial proceedings.

or 10% of any of the above (whichever is the greater).

All scanning is done by the Library and uploaded to the Digital Content Store. You must not make scans yourself. Contact your Subject Librarian for more information or to request a digitisation. See the Reading Lists & Digitisation tab for more information.

Photographs, illustrations, paintings, diagrams, and other forms of image are protected by copyright. This is usually for the term of the creator's life, plus 70 years. Following this period, works fall into the public domain. 

Copyrighted images can only be used in teaching under the terms of an exception to copyright law known as Fair Dealing, outlined in s.32 of the CDPA. For such a use to be acceptable, the image must be directly related to your teaching – not just decorative – and it must also be fully referenced.

Many images are in the public domain or are available to be used under Creative Commons licences. You can find a list of websites with public domain images here, or search Creative Commons here. These images can be used for any purpose, not just for teaching, within the terms of the CC licence. 

Film works are protected for the life of the principal crew (director, author of screenplay, composer of music), plus 70 years. This term also applies to videos published online. Broadcasts (television, radio, etc.) are protected for 50 years following the date of broadcast. Following this period, works fall into the public domain – because of the length of the protected term, and that film is a modern medium, very few films are in the public domain in the UK.

Their use in teaching is permitted by s.34 of the CDPA, so long as your use can be said to be Fair Dealing. Additionally, the film must be a lawfully acquired copy, such as a DVD you own or have borrowed from the Library or one of the Library’s streaming services, and the screening must take place on AUB premises to an audience consisting entirely of AUB students and staff only.

AUB holds a licence from the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) which allows the recording of live television and radio broadcasts (including broadcast feature films) to be used for educational purposes. In practice, this is done through BoB National (Box of Broadcasts)BoB can only be accessed by students in the UK. 

The Library subscribes to several services that provide a source of film and video that can be used for educational purposes, including BoB National and Kanopy.  

Commercial streaming services generally prohibit public screenings in their Terms of Use. A select number of Netflix documentaries are available to be screened for educational purposes. More information about this can be found here.

Events and screenings, such as film club showings, which are not for the purpose of course teaching at the university and may be open to external participants, will need a Filmbank licence, whether or not you are charging for admission. The Library does not administer or pay for these licences.

It is illegal under UK copyright law to format shift media, such as converting a DVD to an mp4 file to play on a computer or upload to a course blog.  

The same copyright considerations apply when teaching 'live' online, in recorded sessions and where teaching materials will later be made available to download. You may include images and short extracts in your online teaching so long as the usage falls under the Fair Dealing exceptions for Illustration for Instruction (s.32 CDPA). You cannot rely on this exception if the use of the material is only indirectly related to what you are teaching or included for entertainment or aesthetic reasons. 

Longer extracts from books and publications should be copied under the terms of the CLA licence. See the tab on 'Course Readings' for further information on this.

Films and television recordings should not be included in a recorded lecture. When using film and video to teach online, you should make use of the University's subscribed streaming resources, that have been made available under licence for our educational purposes. You should provide students with a link to the video you require them to watch, rather than broadcasting it in your recorded lecture. The student watching the recorded lecture can still enjoy the full experience and watch the video via the relevant link.

The University is legally obliged to access material under and in accordance with the licence wherever possible.


The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Licence permits limited scanning and digitisation from textual works. All digitisation must be done by AUB’s Library Service and reported to the CLA. Under the terms of the CLA, AUB has the responsibility to ensure that access is controlled and secure, and that scanned items can only be made accessible to students on courses for which they are enrolled. See the tab on Reading Lists & Digitisation for more information.

The NLA (Newspaper Licensing Agency) licence permits copying from the print and online versions of all the major UK daily and Sunday newspapers (excluding The Financial Times), as well as some regional newspapers.

The NLA licence only covers printing; it does not extend to making digital copies via scanning. 

The Educational Recording Agency (ERA) Licensing Scheme permits staff at educational establishments in the UK to copy, access and use TV and radio programmes for non-commercial educational purposes. In practice, this is mostly done through the BoB National serviceBoB can only be accessed by students in the UK. 

Creative Commons (CC) is a worldwide licence. Any individuals, no matter where in the world they are located, may reuse material that has been made available under CC Licence. You can easily find materials licenced for reuse under Creative Commons using the Creative Commons Search. You can also use materials available in Open Educational Resources, which can be searched for using the OER Commons.  CC Licensing does not replace copyright; you need to abide by any restrictions on the licence, or doing so is a violation of copyright.

Useful Websites
Independent, comprehensive advice on UK copyright law.

Anti-Copying in Design (ACID)
The UK’s leading campaigning organisation for design and intellectual property.

Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS)
UK-based organisation providing rights management and copyright advice for artists.

Section of
Artquest service concerning all aspects of art and the law, including copyright, written by a legal specialist.

Need Help?

If you have any questions about copyright for teaching, contact your Subject Librarian.