Using Copyright Materials in Teaching


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Teaching staff and students will want to use copyright works in some way as part of their teaching and learning and the law includes a number of exceptions that allow for the use of all types of copyright work for specific educational purposes.

Alongside the law, copyright holder agencies also offer licenses to copy which HEI’s can subscribe to (for a fee). These licenses allow for copying of extracts of copyright works for educational use under special rules. (Section B).

The following guidelines apply to the use of copyright works in teaching and learning. Other contexts have other regulations which are discussed in more detail on the website devoted to copyright and intellectual property.

Section A: The Copyright Exceptions and Lectures

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The two main copyright provisions in UK law are;

  1. Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
  2. The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Research, Education, Libraries and Archives) Regulations 2014

The main exception under copyright law relating to education permits the use of any type of work for the purpose of teaching, or as the law expresses it “for the sole purpose of illustration for instruction”.

This means that copyright in the work is not infringed by an individual teacher as long as they are copying the work to give or receive instruction (or when preparing to give or receive instruction), and the copying is used to illustrate a point about the subject being taught.

The law says such copying does not infringe copyright as long as;

  1. it is for a non-commercial purpose.
  2. the amount of the work used is “fair”. This usually means up to 5% of the work, and that no more than this is copied and used for “illustration and instruction” for the same module in the same academic year.
  3. it is done by a person giving or receiving instruction (or preparing for giving or receiving instruction), and;
  4. it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.

The law also states that “giving or receiving instruction” can also include copying for setting examination questions, communicating questions to students, and answering questions.

What does this mean?
  • Academic staff can make reasonable use of all types of copyright work for lectures as long as the use is minimal, fair and non-commercial.
  • Copying materials to use for lectures within presentation software is allowed.
  • Includes use of copyrighted materials in setting examination papers.

Recorded Lectures and Third Party Copyright Materials

The exception also includes the use of third party copyright material in lectures which are recorded. Such use is allowed;

  • provided the original work is sufficiently acknowledged.
  • the recording is fair, i.e in order to be fair the material must be included in the lecture and lecture recorded to illustrate a teaching point.
  • only so much of the copyright work is used as is necessary for illustration for instruction and the use must not adversely affect the rights holder’s ability to exploit their work.
  • access to the recorded lecture is via a password protected VLE (duo), and is only provided to those students and staff requiring access for the purpose of instruction.

As part of the teaching session, a presentation may include;

  • an image
  • a short quotation, e.g. from a book, journal paper
  • a diagram, chart or figure, from a published work
  • an extract from a musical score
  • an extract of a recording of a musical performance
  • an extract of a recording of a radio or television broadcast
  • a clip from a movie

Type of content is not restricted, but work must be reasonable, minimal, fair, non-commercial and provided with an acknowledgement.

Guidance for Teaching Staff

  • Those preparing and/or delivering the lecture and relying on the ‘illustration for instruction’ exception should make an informed judgement in ensuring the amount of a copyright work used is actually minimal and fair.
  • The law does not define “fair”, however this is commonly regarded to be an amount which would not undermine the copyright owner’s potential to benefit commercially from sales of the work.
  • The extract used should be obtained from an authoritative, original, published source.
  • ‘Illustration for instruction’ is usually interpreted to mean that a copy can be used to illustrate or reinforce a teaching point, but cannot be copied merely for aesthetic purposes to make a presentation look more attractive.
  • Slides containing third party material must contain full acknowledgement of the source(s) from where the extract(s) has been obtained (for example on-screen, or in “closing credits” if that is easier).
  • Lecture slides/recordings using third party copyright material and relying on the exception for ‘illustration for instruction’ can only be made available to registered students.
  • Recorded lectures for public dissemination or marketing use should not contain any extracts from third party copyright material unless permission from the copyright owner(s) has been granted for such use.
  • Material made freely available by authors (for example under Creative Commons licenses) could also be used, but will also need appropriate attribution of the author and source. More information is available on the Creative Commons website.

 Section B: Copying Licenses at Durham University

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Where much longer extracts from copyright works are needed (e.g. a whole journal paper, or book chapter), teaching staff should rely on the relevant copyright license. The licenses at Durham which permit more substantial copying of extracts from copyright works are;

Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Higher education (HE) License which allows;

  1. photocopying of an extract from an eligible print work (no more than one chapter or 10% if a book, one journal or 10% from an issue of a journal) for distribution to all students on a module.
  2. digitisation of the same (i.e. conversion of extracts from print works to electronic format) by the Library for students to access within a duo Course.

ERA+ License which allows for;

Online recording of broadcasts for use in classroom teaching or for viewing by registered staff and students via duo (i.e. to people “directly connected” to the HEI and not visitors).

Between them, the licences cover the following activities;

  • photocopying of a single chapter from a work, or a single journal paper from an issue of a journal (or 10% of a work whichever is the greater), and distributing this to students on a particular module in any one year.
  • digitisation of the same, licence terms permitting, for delivery to students via a module Course on duo.
  • use of a broadcast requested through the ERA+ service.

Licence to create electronic copies under the CLA HE agreement at Durham is granted to the Library’s Digitisation Service. Teaching staff should consult the Library Digitisation Service’s for more information on this service and how electronic copies can be prepared and delivered to students.

Special rules apply to making and supplying digital copies of extracts from works under the CLA HE Licence – they are not the same as those applying to photocopying. Digital copying of book chapters or journal papers under the CLA Licence has to be done by so-called ‘designated persons’, in Durham’s case the Library Digitisation Service.

Teaching staff should therefore contact the Digitisation Team for any electronic copying required from printed works to ensure they do not infringe copyright in this area.

If staff wish to make electronic copies of book extracts and journal papers themselves, without recourse to the Digitisation Service, they should seek out the copyright owner (this may be the work’s author(s), publisher or a combination of the two) and obtain direct permission.

Remember– this restriction applies to copying and is separate to that done for the purposes of illustration for instruction in teaching, and applies to more substantive extracts from print works (whole chapters, journal papers).

In Summary

  • Limited use of copyright works in lectures does not require permission from the copyright holder or a licence, as this is permitted by copyright law. The law allows use of minimal extracts of copyright works provided 1) the extracts are for the purposes of ‘illustration for instruction’ and 2) the amount of the work used is within ‘fair’ limits, and included with appropriate acknowledgement.
  • In practical terms, staff have the freedom to select any copyright works from which extracts can be used for teaching purposes, as long as the amount of a work used is minimal and fair and an acknowledgement of the copyright source is included in the lecture. Illustration for instruction is usually interpreted to mean that a copy can be used to illustrate or reinforce a teaching point but cannot be copied merely for aesthetic purposes to make a presentation look more attractive.
  • Copying or using more substantial extracts from copyright works outside the context of a lecture (live or recorded), needs to employ a copyright licence (CLA, ERA etc), or depend on the direct permission of the copyright holder.
  • Teaching staff have to decide as to whether they use the exception under the law, or the copyright licences, for any copying of a copyright work they are doing.

For more information, please refer to the University’s webpages on copyright or contact Colin Theakston (Academic Support Librarian,

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This guide is based on Keele University’s Using Copyright Material in Teaching guide and is being re-used under the CC-BY-NC-SA license. Some information from the original guide such as the institutional licenses has been changed to make it applicable to Durham University staff. This guide is presented as a webpage rather than a PDF.