Library Services


Copyright for teaching

Copyright guidance for staff when teaching or producing learning materials.

Copyright for teaching

Copyright restricts what you may do lawfully with someone else's work.

It is very important to remain within the law. The law also protects the copyright in your own work. The default is that you need permission to reproduce, adapt or distribute someone else's work.

How can I provide digitised course readings for my students? Is copyright an issue?

UCL pays for an annual HE Licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) to reproduce extracts from a wide range of books and journals. This enables you to provide digitised course reading to students registered for UCL taught courses. The CLA licence is for this specific purpose and is not a general licence to copy. You must submit course readings to Teaching and Learning Support (TLS) in order to comply with the licence. You can then link to the digitised material from the online reading list for the relevant course.

How can I use broadcasts for teaching? What is BoB?

UCL has a licence from the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) which allows you to record live television and radio broadcasts (including broadcast feature films) to be used for educational purposes with UCL audiences. The most convenient way of using the ERA licence to provide access to broadcast material is via the web-based BoB service (Box of Broadcasts) to which UCL subscribes. This is accessible to all UCL staff and students via the BoB website using your UCL log-in. BoB offers a database of recent broadcasts and listings of future broadcasts. You can select the items of interest and store them on your account. This avoids the need to make recordings and then arrange secure storage to comply with the ERA licence. You can set up playlists and share them with UCL students. You can also link to content in BoB from UCL Reading lists.

How can I use films for teaching purposes?

Showing films to an audience is an activity restricted by copyright but there are some useful options available:

If a film is available on the BoB service (because it has been broadcast on television recently) you can use it for teaching directly from the BoB website by adding it to your play list. The Kanopy streaming service, which UCL subscribes to, is another source of films (26,000 of various kinds) which we can use for educational purposes.

If you have a lawfully acquired copy of the film you wish to show in any format, there is also an exception in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 Section 34 which allows you to show it on UCL premises to an audience of UCL students and staff for educational purposes.

None of the copyright exceptions apply to film clubs, which need a licence to show specific films. See the UCL Copyright Blog for more details.

Are there any copyright implications in using Lecturecast to record my lectures?

UCL has "deemed consent" to record lectures by UCL staff. Although UCL waives its rights to ownership of copyright in teaching materials created by employees, it does benefit from a broad licence to re-use them. This stems from the UCL IP Policy.

In the case of external or guest speakers: They should be asked to sign the standard Lecturer consent form. The form is used to gather permission to record their lecture and permission to re-use their copyright material. The completed "Lecturer consent forms" should retained by the UCL department which has organised the event as proof that we have the relevant permissions.

It is important to check whether the lecture includes material where the copyright belongs to someone else (not UCL or the speaker). This could be a textual quote, an image or recorded music for example. We need permission or a licence to include any "third party" copyright material. We should also check that the copyright owner and the source of any third party material are correctly acknowledged. You can find more general information about Lecturecast and more about the copyright aspects of Lecturecast.

What are the copyright considerations when using Blogs and Wikis for teaching?

It is important to consider the copyright information to accompany Blogs and Wikis created by UCL students. The starting point is that the students, as authors, will own the copyright in their blog posts or other contributions. The more publicly available the work, the more important it is to consider copyright and licensing. The blog posts will be protected by copyright automatically but it may be appropriate to apply one of the Creative Commons licences. The students should be involved in discussion of whether and how their work is to be made available for reuse. This should be part of the learning experience. Creative Commons licences permit reuse of the students work as long as the person reusing the material complies with some simple licence terms.

Students should also be aware that they need permission from the copyright owner if they include copyright-protected material by others (third party material) unless this is covered by a licence or a copyright exception. Failure to be aware of this could result in risk of copyright infringement for the student and possibly also for UCL.

Tell me about “fair dealing” and the copyright exceptions. How can I use the exceptions in my teaching?

The copyright exceptions in the UK legislation define when it is acceptable to reuse other people’s content without seeking permission. The exceptions are very useful in Higher Education, but they apply in specific circumstances. When relying upon a copyright exception we need to be reasonably sure that we fulfil the conditions.

Some of the relevant exceptions are subject to a fair dealing test. Fair dealing is not defined by the legislation, but these are the questions we need to ask when considering whether what we want to do is fair dealing or not:

Could I be harming the interests of the copyright owner? For example, if you were reproducing a large proportion of a published work and then making it available to a large audience, you could be damaging the market for the author’s original work and it would not be fair dealing. You should consider whether you are using more of the work than is really justified by your purpose. You need to take a view about fair dealing based on the specific work, how much of it you want to use and how you plan to use it. 

Teaching and examinations exception

The most relevant fair dealing  exception for us is the  Teaching and examinations exception which is to be found in Section 32 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. These are the salient features:

  • Your reuse must be fair dealing (not damage the interests of the copyright owner).
  • The exception can apply to copyright-protected content in any medium, text, graphics, images, film etc.
  • It needs to be for a non-commercial purpose. We can assume that regular HE courses qualify as non-commercial.
  • It must be carried out by “… a person giving or receiving instruction” but it’s fine if other UCL staff are involved in preparing the material.
  • There must be adequate acknowledgement of author and source.
  • The exception cannot be overridden by the terms of a contract. For example if the terms of our contract with the publisher of an e-journal state that we cannot upload extracts into our VLE, that will not legally prevent us from doing so, provided it is “fair dealing” in the particular circumstances and therefore covered by the exception.

When relying upon the teaching exception, it helps our claim that what we are doing is fair dealing if we make the content available exclusively to UCL staff and students in a secure environment such as Moodle. Ideally access should be limited to the students taking the relevant module. That supports our claim that it is for a non-commercial educational purpose. The limited audience may also reduce potential harm to the interests of the copyright owner.

Audio visual content

Under the terms of the teaching exception it may be fair dealing to use extracts from film or other media in teaching. It may also be fair dealing to reuse a complete film depending on the circumstances.

Do I need to consider copyright when using Hypothes.is or similar collaborative annotation tools?

When you upload a document onto Hypothes.is for annotation, you are potentially infringing the copyright of the company or people who own and/or created it. Here is some guidance to ensure that you use the service within the law.

This guide is not comprehensive

This short guide covers the majority of likely use-cases at UCL. If you are not sure how copyright affects your particular case, please contact your librarian or email copyright@ucl.ac.uk.

General principles

  • You must not put up resources that the student couldn’t easily download for free themselves (either publicly available on the web or from UCL Library subscriptions) unless you are sure that the fair dealing requirements are met
  • The most relevant fair dealing exception is the teaching exception in Section 32 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
  • You should ensure that – for resources whose value improves for the publisher with viewing/downloading – you include a link for students to read/download directly before annotating (and ask them to do that)
  • If the material is not yet published, you should get permission from the authors

Historical documents and works

In general, copyright dies 70 years after the death of the creator. If you put up a whole novel by Jane Austin, or a work by Samuel Pepys or Isaac Newton, these would all be copyright-free. However, modern translations of historical texts will be protected by copyright

Crown or other government copyright

Generally, public government documents are fine to reuse for teaching purposes. This will be covered by the Open Government Licence (OGL), although there are some exceptions.

Works held in the UCL Library

Journal papers and similar resources are generally held on the basis that they can be accessed by anyone at UCL. It may therefore seem reasonable to simply download a copy of a paper and put it up on Moodle. However, this can skew the publisher’s downloading statistics (so more people may be reading it than downloading it, making the paper seem less valuable). To remedy this, simply provide a link to the resource in the library and require the students to download the paper before they start the annotation exercise. 

Books are generally not appropriate to annotate as a whole publication but extracts can generally be used relying upon one of the fair dealing exceptions. You should limit the extract to what is essential for the relevant teaching activity

Material on the web

Though material on the web often seems free to viewers, it is still protected by copyright and publishers have spent money to create and maintain the content, often receiving payment through advertising. If you have students read on the publisher's website and then comment on the Hypothes.is copy, this should ensure that the publisher does not lose anything.

Where the material is clearly covered by a Creative Commons licence or equivalent it is fine to reuse it in Hypothes.is as long as you adhere to the terms of the specific Creative Commons licence. If a CC licence applies then it is not necessary to rely upon the teaching exception because you can rely upon the terms of the Creative Commons licence.

UCL-created content

Authors are often required to assign their copyright to a publisher, so for published material by UCL authors it is better just to follow the guidelines for books and journal papers above. In the case of unpublished works, they can be reused provided all authors give their permission. Students also own the copyright in their own work, so if you want to use student’s submitted work as examples for comment or criticism it is better to seek their permission or to advise them in advance that their submitted work might be used in this way.