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Copyright: for learning, teaching, and research

This guide introduces key concepts of copyright relevant to those both studying and working at the University of Essex.

This guide has been adapted from Copyright guidance created at the University of Kent. Morrison, Chris and Groth-Seary, Angela (2020) University of Kent Copyright Guidance. University of Kent, Kent, UK. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.92664).

The 2022 version of this guide is available in Word Document and PDF formats at:

Copyright for lecturers

Teaching and learning would be impossible without the use of copyright protected material. This page helps you to understand how to use copyright material legally in your teaching. 

When you share copyright material such as readings, videos, and sound recordings, with students, this materials needs to be covered by either:

In many cases, the University pays for licences which allow educational use. However, there will also be times when you need to rely on exceptions.

Where there is no licence or exception, it's possible that you or the University may be liable for copyright infringement. The risk of infringement when providing teaching resources is usually low, but can lead to financial or reputational damage. The guidance on this page will help you to manage this risk, and demonstrate good practice in the use of copyright material.

The below video introduces some essential copyright information of which lecturers should be aware. This includes considerations for teaching, and for publishing.

Licences and exceptions for teaching

We have a number of licences available within the institution that enable the use of teaching materials. Our digital library resources all come with licences that allow you and your students to access content using your University of Essex credentials. 

We also have collective copyright licences that allow copying and sharing of certain types of copyright work:

  • Published books and journals: our CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) Licence allows us to provide up to 10%, or one chapter/article (whichever is greater) to students. The CLA's PDF on 'what the CLA  licence covers' explains this in more depth. All institutional reporting of scans made under the terms of this licence are reported via our online reading list platform, meaning that all scans made for education at Essex need to be added to, and shared via, online reading lists.
  • Newspapers: our NLA Licence allows us to copy articles from newspapers and make these available to staff and students.
  • UK film and radio broadcasts: Our ERA Licence allows us to access recordings from UK film and radio broadcasts which we provide to you primarily using BoB - On Demand TV and Radio.

Creative commons licences are becoming increasingly important in teaching as a way of creating and sharing educational resources. You can use creative commons licences works in your teaching without having to pay or ask for permission. There are different types of creative commons licence, so make sure you're aware of the restrictions the copyright owner has applied. For example, the 'No Derivatives' option prevents you from making an adaption of the work. 

Find free creative commons licenced educational resources on our 'finding and sharing content online' page. 

Find more information about the different types of creative commons licences on our copyright home page.

There may be cases where you want to use a copyright work in your teaching that isn't covered by a licence. You'll then have two options:

  • Get permission from the copyright holder directly
  • Determine if your activity is covered by an exception to copyright

Copyright exceptions allow you to include copyright material in your teaching without the permission of the copyright holder. To rely on copyright exceptions, you must abide by the concept of fair dealing. This means you must:

  • Provide credit for the work and its creator
  • Only use as much of it as is necessary for your teaching
  • Make sure your use doesn't undermine the copyright owner's ability to exploit the work

There are a number of copyright exceptions in the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act which relate to teaching. The most relevant to you as a teacher are:

Read on through this page to find out more about how you can rely on licences and exceptions to address copyright in relation to the most common types of teaching activity.

Can I put the readings for my modules on Moodle?
No - all reading material that you are recommending to your students needs to be added to your reading list on our online reading list platform. Reading lists are used to inform purchasing for the Library's collections, and also enable us to digitise essential chapters/extracts where online versions are not otherwise available. We make these digitised copies under the terms of the CLA licence, and all reporting of scans made under this licence are reported via our online reading list platform. You can, however, integrate your online reading list with Moodle, so from your students' perspective they will still be able to access the readings via Moodle.

As I wrote the book, surely I can include a copy of the full text of the chapter on my reading list even though there isn't an e-book available?
This will depend on whether you own the copyright to that chapter. If you signed the copyright over to the publisher on publication, digitisation of this chapter will be treated in the same way as any other resource for which we cannot source an online version; i.e. we will make a scan where possible under the terms of the CLA licence. If you do own the copyright, then we can add the full text to the reading list. If you have retained rights on the Author's Accepted Manuscript version of the work, then we could also add this version to the reading list. Though this may have implications for referencing in terms of page numbers etc. 

It's freely available online, so it can go on my reading list?
This will depend. If the resource you're looking to use is a legitimate open access resource, then yes that's great to use on your reading list. However, not all materials made freely available online are legitimate. While we cannot police the internet, if the resource has been illegally uploaded to the internet we wouldn't direct our students to this resource and would need to source it in a copyright compliant way.

I only want to use a few pages, so it's fine to go on my reading list?
Again, this will depend. This can be a legitimate point if the resource is being made available under the copyright exception illustration for instruction. However, the general fair dealing considerations will need to be applied. It's also important to remember that to use this exception we still need to be able to source the extract of the work from a legitimate source.

Sharing course materials

Under copyright law, you can share the same types of content with your students online (including ListenAgain) that you're allowed to present in a lecture theatre, as long as the use:

  • Is relevant to your teaching
  • Is fair to the copyright owner
  • Has sufficient credit to the copyright owner (unless this is impossible or impractical)

Teaching slides: As you create PowerPoint slides or equivalent teaching presentations, make sure you properly credit any images, text, or musical quotations. You need to do this regardless of whether you're relying on a licence or on a copyright exception

E-resources: All E-resources you are assigning to your students must be added to the module's online reading list. This is to ensure all course materials are available in one place for students, and to allow link checking to take place when course content is reviewed. 

Scans from books and journals: We can make scans from books and journals where E-resources are not available. These scans are made under the terms of the CLA Licence, and all reporting for this licence is done via our online reading list platform. The Library's reading list team will make and upload scans for chapters and journal articles where needed, and will check copyright compliance. No scans should therefore be made available to students outside of our online reading list platform.

Creative commons licensed content: If the content you want to share is covered by a creative commons licence, you can share it online. However, you must be aware of the terms of the specific creative commons licence that content has been given. For example, if you're creating a new copyright work based on existing creative commons works, you need to consider whether this is a derivative work and therefore if the licence restricts this.

Commercial use: Some licences restrict commercial use. The University takes the view that even though students pay tuition fees, it does not make teaching activity commercial. This means you can share material marked for 'non-commercial' use in most teaching contexts.

Accessible copying: If you or your students have a disability, you or they may make adaptations to copyright works to make them accessible. The University's Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Team will be able to advise on this.

Performing works in class

Showing recorded media: You can show films or play recorded audio to students without needing a licence from the copyright owner in lecture or seminar rooms, or in live online teaching events (as long as you only provide access to your students). This is because of the copyright exception for the performing, playing, or showing of work in the course of the activities of an educational establishment.

Performing musical, literary, or dramatic works: You may perform, or get others to perform, musical, literary, or dramatic works in front of an audience without a licence as long as these are closed sessions for your students online. If the audience includes others, such as family, friends, or members of the public, you may need a licence.

  • Public performance of music: The University is able to get a "PRS for Music" licence which covers performance of live and recorded music on campus. To apply for this licence, please contact the Students' Union. You may need to get permission from the copyright owner to upload musical performances to some online platforms, but this depends on the context.
  • Public performance of literary work: Under UK copyright law, you are allowed to recite 'reasonable' quotes from books and journals in public without needing a licence. You may record the reading or recitation and share it online, as long as the quoted material is only a small part of the overall recording.
  • Public performance of dramatic works: You or your students will need to get permission from the copyright owner if you want to publicly perform a whole play, musical, or opera. You can contact theatrical agents such as Concord Theatricals to arrange permission if you need it.

Open educational resources

Many teachers are happy to share their learning resources with others under open licences. Open Educational Resources (OERs) are typically released with creative commons licences that allow the copyright owner to authorise others to share their works free of charge. If the copyright owner wants to, they can give others the right to adapt and even commercialise their work, but sometimes they choose to restrict these permissions. If you are looking for open educational resources, the OER Commons is a digital library of OERs.

The creative and dissemination of copyright content at the University of Essex is subject to our Intellectual Property Policy.

Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work by University of Essex Library and Cultural Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.