Copyright FAQs

Where do I stand with regard to copying content and linking to other pages?

As with most legal matters there is no definitive answer to this simple question. So where does this leave the educational practitioner? Is anyone prepared to say what you can or can’t do in terms that most of us can readily interpret? Well, these FAQs attempt to do just that although, of course, a disclaimer just had to be added!

Can I cut-and-paste material from the World Wide Web?

The World Wide Web is subject to copyright, and Web pages are themselves literary works. The articles contained within Web pages are separate literary works, the graphics are artistic works, and any sound files are musical works. Therefore, the same basic principles that anything original automatically obtains copyright protection, and that infringement occurs when someone copies all, or a substantial part of that material, without permission equally apply as they do for more traditional media.

It is, therefore, absolutely imperative that you always check to see if there is a copyright notice on the Web page in question. A typical copyright notice forbidding all use of the website's material might say:

You are not authorised to alter the material on this Website in any way nor copy or cut from any page or its HTML source code to the Windows™ clipboard (or equivalent on other platforms). This information does not apply to material on other servers linked to this one.

As a point of interest there can be many copyrights involved in browsing a single World Wide Web page and, in theory, the consent of the copyright holder is required for each act of copying. Technically you are actually performing the act of ‘copying’ when you start browsing a Web page because a copy is automatically made into your computer's RAM as well as the cache of your browser. The following two examples show statements defining the different levels of permission for these various levels of copying.

This publication may be freely copied and/or distributed in its entirety. However, individual sections MAY NOT be copied and/or distributed without the prior written agreement of the publishers.

(Name of organisation) authorises you to view and display the material using a generally recognised World Wide Web browser. Download the material to store in your local computer (for example in your browser's cache) for a period not exceeding 30 days, provided that you also download this copyright notice. Print out the material, provided that you also print an appropriate acknowledgement (see below) and attach it to each copy of the printout.

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Can I link to another web page?

Staff at IS Training are often asked this question. Linking is not actually illegal. By including a hyperlink, you are not actually copying, but it is still not absolutely clear cut. This is because the act of hyperlinking could be deemed as authorising someone else to make a copy of the material to which you are linking.

We would be failing in our duty if we did not give you guidance on this subject. Therefore, our current advice (July 2003) is that if linking to a particular Web page is not specifically covered in that page's own copyright notice, then we advise you to obtain permission. This is particularly relevant in the likelihood that the link could possibly violate any reasonable expectation of privacy or income. This can most easily be done by sending an email to the Webmaster/author of the page concerned. You may be pleased to know that it is the experience of the author that permission will invariably be granted.

Always bear in mind, however, that links which go to other parts of a Website other than the home page (known as deep links) may present material out of its proper context. When you link to another Web page you should always make it clear that you are doing this otherwise it may appear to the reader to be part of your page. Although technically you would not be ‘copying’ - the practice of hyperlinking without acknowledgement may be interpreted as theft.

An example of clearly defining a link to a section of another Web page that is not the home page of that Website:

See how to change your dog’s behaviour by reading the article under Section 1.2.1 of The Dog Handler’s Guide at http://www.dogsarenotjustforchristmas.co.uk/guide.htm#section121

The unacceptable alternative would be:

The best method of dealing with this problem is known as rewarding good behaviour and has been proved to be very successful.

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Should I keep records of permissions that have been granted?

You are advised to keep records of ‘authorisation’. This will safeguard you should your online material be audited at a later date. In any case records should be kept of all hyperlinks so that they can be regularly checked to ensure that the content is appropriate, relevant, and remains as originally expected.

See Templates for obtaining copyright permission.

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What can I do if the Webmaster/author doesn’t bother to reply to my request?

Providing the email has not ‘bounced’ you have behaved reasonably in your attempt to seek permission and, providing there is no copyright notice preventing you from copying/linking to that Web page, you may create a hyperlink to that page. Always keep a record of such requests even though there has not been a reply. Records such as these can provide evidence that appropriate action has been taken - for auditing purposes.

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What statements can I make authorising/forbidding the use of my Web content?

If you are placing material on a virtual learning environment, such as Moodle, you are making it available to a restricted community only. However, you may still wish to point out to your students that the material contained within their online course is for their own personal use only and not for free distribution to third parties.

Example of statement forbidding the alteration or copying of any material on a Web site:

You are not authorised to alter the material on this website in any way, nor copy or cut from any page or its HTML source code to the Windows™ clipboard (or equivalent on other platforms). This information does not apply to material on other websites linked to this one.

Examples of statements offering various levels of permissions to use information from a given Website:

This publication may be freely copied and/or distributed in its entirety. However, individual sections MAY NOT be copied and/or distributed without the prior written agreement of the publishers.

(Name of organisation) authorises you to view and display the material using a generally recognised World Wide Web browser. Download the material to store in your local computer (for example in your browser's cache) for a period not exceeding 30 days, provided that you also download this copyright notice. Print out the material, provided that you also print an appropriate acknowledgement (see below) and attach it to each copy of the printout.

Example of acknowledgement to be attached to any printout from a given website:

This material is the copyright of …… and is reproduced with permission.

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What do I do if the third party insists on their logo being inserted on my Web page?

Generally it is accepted practice to use public/educational sector logos when in context as long as you comply with that organisation’s rulings on size, colour, position etc and providing they have not actively withdrawn permission. In the case of commercial organisations, however, you will need to seek the permission of your faculty/department head as to the appropriateness of using another organisation’s logo. Be prepared for permission not to be granted!

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Am I legally liable for the information contained in the linked Web page?

The third party (UCL) will be liable for the illegality of the contents of a linked Web page whether it is copyright infringement, defamation, race hate material, pornography or whatever as long as two things apply. The first is that the third party knew, or had good reason to know, that something illegal was going on. The second is that the third party could control what was being put on.

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Surely if I place a disclaimer on my Web page I will not then be liable for the content on the linked pages?

Whilst it is good practice to place a disclaimer on your site that indicates that any links are for information only, and do not constitute an endorsement or approval of the material on the linked sites this is no guarantee of immunity from prosecution if the linked site is blatantly illegal. Therefore, avoidance of any such sites would be the best option.

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Are there any other precautions I should take when publishing contributions from other sources on my Web page even though they have given me permission?

You are advised to have a disclaimer when quoting from another source.

Example of a disclaimer stating that you cannot be held responsible for third-party content:

The opinions, advice, products and services (if applicable) offered by third party sources are not necessarily endorsed by the author. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information in the Web page(s), the author cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions.

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Images such as those in the search engine ‘www.google.com’ Image bank are free from copyright, aren’t they?

No, unfortunately very few of them are copyright free! A single click on a thumbnail of the image will take you to the image in its original context and will reveal the GoogleTM statement “This image may be subject to copyright” immediately below the image. You can then check on the relevant Website for a copyright notice/symbol and if there isn’t one you can then establish who you can contact to ask permission to use the image.

Something else that a lot of people don’t realise is that screen shots (also known as screen dumps, screen grabs or screen capture) which are taken whilst software that is not ‘open source’ is running may be an infringement of copyright. For example, the Microsoft Corporation has many rules in relation to the use of their logo, images, help menus, screen shots etc the most common of which is ‘The Ten Percent Rule’, i.e. no more than 10% of promotional material should comprise screen shots. Most of the clipart/photographs within the Microsoft® Office Suite are provided by third-parties who own the copyright. Therefore many of the images may not be freely distributed by profit-making organisations or used in a screen shot. A fact which again is not widely known. Most of these regulations do not apply to non-profit making organisations and, therefore, many of these rules are not applicable to the education sector although you would still have to adhere to the Microsoft Corporation’s requirement that screen shots and text from their help menu are not altered in any way.

Note: When using screen shots from Microsoft® products the copyright attribution for the screen shot should state: "Screen shot(s) reprinted by permission from Microsoft Corporation". Visit http://www.microsoft.com/permission/ for more information.

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What’s the situation regarding placing an extract of a publication on the web?

Extracts from print or digital publications can only be placed on the Web with permission of the copyright holder. New licensing came into force in late 2005 which does allow the creation of digital copies from UK published print publications to be integrated into "secure" environments, e.g. Moodle, for students on a particular course to use. Contact the TLSS (library-tlss@ucl.ac.uk) for information on this service and further guidance on making extracts available.

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If I modify a graphic I can then use it without breaching copyright!

This, unfortunately, is a long-held myth. If you start by using the original graphic you have breached the copyright laws. A good explanation of why this cannot be done can be found on the web site of the Patent Office at www.patent.gov.uk - an extract is given below…

What is Copyright?
Copyright gives the creators of certain kinds of material rights to control ways their material can be used. These rights start as soon as the material is recorded in writing or in any other way. There is no official registration system.

The rights cover:

  • copying;
  • adapting;
  • distributing;
  • communicating to the public by electronic transmission (including by broadcasting and in an on demand service);
  • renting or lending copies to the public; and,
  • performing in public

In many cases, the author will also have the right to be identified on their works and to object if their work is distorted or mutilated.

  • What is protected by copyright?
    Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, published editions of works, sound recordings, films (including videograms) and broadcasts.
  • How long does UK copyright last?
    Copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (including a photograph) lasts until 70 years after the death of the author.
  • Is material on the Internet protected by copyright?
    Yes. Under UK law (the position in other countries may differ) copyright material sent over the Internet or stored on web servers will generally be protected in the same way as material in other media. So anyone wishing to put copyright material on the Internet, or further distribute or download such material that others have placed on the Internet, should ensure that they have the permission of the owners of rights in the material.


© Crown copyright 2002


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Disclaimer
These FAQs may be freely copied and adapted for use. Whilst every effort has been made to establish the accuracy of the contents of this publication the author cannot be held responsible for the legality of the content. All readers of this article are advised to be vigilant as to the change in legislation with regard to the World Wide Web and information and guidance on this and other legal issues can be obtained from http://www.jisclegal.ac.uk/.

These FAQs have been taken from the following article:

"Copyright Issues when Creating Content" by Penny Everett (UCL), July 2003 - PDF (99KB)