Copyright and the VLE

Copyright and the VLE

You may wish to provide materials to your students via the VLE. In the University of Aberdeen the VLE includes: MyAberdeen, MyMBChB, MyBDS, MyPA, etc.

View our series of short videos on the Copyright page.

Adding Material to the VLE

Material can be made freely available on the VLE where:

  • You are the copyright holder
  • The material is out of copyright
  • You have the permission of the copyright owner to use the material this may be where you have obtained permission to use a specific item/section of a work that could not otherwise be used, or where permission has been granted via the use of a creative commons licence, or included in a general statement on copyright permissions within the item, website etc.
  • The library holds an electronic subscription to an e-book or e-journal. In this case, you should provide a link to the item in your teaching materials rather than reproducing materials from the electronic source.
  • Under no circumstances should you upload a copy of an electronic resource into MyAberdeen.

Material can be included under a copyright exemption

The Copyright Designs and Patents Act includes a number of Copyright Exceptions which permit copying of limited portions of a work under certain conditions and for specific purposes.

Material can be included under the terms of a licence

The University subscribes to the Copyright Licensing Agency’s Higher Education Licence.  This licence allows you to make multiple photocopies for your students from books and journals provided they are covered by the licence.   The Licence also permits the uploading (subject to extent limits) of scanned materials from published sources where an electronic version is not available.

The CLA have a permissions check tool which must be consulted before you scan and upload textual materials from books and journals for use in the VLE for access by University of Aberdeen students, including distance learners, or in powerpoint presentations. See the Licences web pages for full details of the all the licences and associated terms and conditions.

Before scanning an item, you must also complete a copyright notice and scan this as the first page of each item scanned under the CLA licence before uploading your file to MyAberdeen.

Scanned items may be retained on the VLE for the full duration of a degree course however, course coordinators must check each extract on an annual basis to ensure it is still covered by the licence. This can be done using the CLA Check Permissions Search Tool. Items which are excluded from the licence during the course of an academic session may be retained until the end of that session, but must then be removed from MyAberdeen and may not be used in subsequent sessions.

Textbook Substitution

Staff should be aware that the course materials selected for inclusion in the VLE must not inadvertently create a collection of items which cover substantially the same material as a standard textbook for a given course. This could happen when individual extracts on a particular topic from a number of different books are gathered together as course readings which, when taken together, form a “virtual textbook”. This form of textbook substitution is not permitted under the terms of the licence.



Linking to Electronic Journals

Where the University of Aberdeen has a subscription to an electronic journal you should provide a link to the title in the library catalogue, and NOT upload a copy of the publisher’s pdf. By providing a direct link to the journal, you dispense with the need to report the use of the item and each access will be counted in the University’s usage statistics for that resource. Very occasionally a journal will not allow off-campus access to the electronic content. This can be overcome by the use of the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Guidance on using the VDI can be found here.

Linking to Electronic Books

Where the library has purchased an electronic copy of a book, or has a licence in perpetuity to such a copy, you may provide a link to the catalogue record for that book. Please note, copyright subsists in electronic books exactly as for print copies. However, licensing terms and conditions do vary. If you wish to do anything other than provide a link to the electronic version, please contact Ross Hayworth in the Sir Duncan Rice library for advice.

Reporting Requirements

All materials scanned under the terms of the licence must be reported to the Copyright officer. Please see the CLA Higher Education User Guidelines for additional information.

As of 1st June 2015 the reporting system has changed, and you are no longer required to submit individual scanning record sheets. Instead, download a copy of the reporting spreadsheet from the CLA website. Save this as an editable version and complete throughout the session as you add materials to the VLE.

The spreadsheet should be returned to Mary Mowat when completed. Please note, you may use the same spreadsheet to report scanning from multiple classes. You should first add information on the course code, course duration and student numbers to the course code tab on the reporting spreadsheet - you will only need to do this once for each course, then add the details of the materials scanned listed under the CLA_DRF tab.

For a full explanation on the terms and conditions associated with each of the above options for including copyright material in the VLE, please take a few minutes to view this presentation.

What May I Use under the CLA licence?

The CLA licence allows scanning of limited extracts from copyright protected printed books, journals and magazines. The copies must be made from an original of a book, journal or magazine owned by the University.

  • Up to 10% or one chapter of a book
  • Up to 10% or one article from a single issue of a journal
  • Up to 10% or one paper of one set of conference proceedings
  • Up to 10% of an anthology or one short story or one poem of not more than 10 pages
  • Up to 10% or one case of one report of judicial proceedings

The material can be text only, text and image or an image dis-embedded from the text.

Materials from the majority of UK publishers can be scanned under the licence. You should always refer to the Check Permissions Search Tool to determine the licensing status of any item.  The CLA excluded UK publishers list is updated quarterly, and the CLA's International Territories list will enable you to determine whether material published outside the UK is covered by the licence.

Most international publishers allow their materials to be used under the same terms and conditions as UK publishers, however the Copyright Clearance Center in the USA operates a different system whereby individual publishers have to opt-in to the system.  This means that unless the publisher has a global mandate, some titles which have been published exclusively in the USA will be excluded from the licence. In addition where a title is identified as a CCC electronic-rights work (i.e. a work published by a Participating US Publisher listed on the Check Permissions tool as as being available for digital use or re-use), you must make a digital copy from an electronic version of the work if one is available.  In other words, you cannot scan from a print copy of a title of a CCC electronic-rights work if there is an electronic copy available.  T

Scanned items must include a copyright notice which should be scanned as the first page of the pdf.

What types of material are excluded from the licence

Some classes of material are excluded from the photocopying and scanning licence. These include newspapers, printed music, and maps. There are also certain publishers, and certain countries whose published output is excluded from the licence. A complete list of excluded works and excluded territories is on the CLA website.

Use of Materials not Covered by CLA Licence

Some of the materials you may want to use in MyAberdeen may not be covered by copyright, and as such do not need to be declared. It is however your responsibility to ensure that you can demonstrate that either:

  • Copyright in the material has lapsed. i.e period of protection for the specific material type has been exceeded.
  • You have obtained specific permission from the rightsholder(s) to reproduce and use the material. Please ensure that you retain copies of all correspondence with the rightsholder(s)
  • You are the author or joint author of the material.

Please note: if your co-author(s) are not University of Aberdeen employees you will need to obtain their permission to use any jointly-created materials. If you have published your material, such as in a journal, you may have transferred your copyright to the publisher of that work, so you should check whether any retained permissions allows you to use the work in this way, or whether specific permission has to be obtained before posting the material to MyAberdeen. It would be useful to negotiate unrestricted rights to use your work for teaching purposes when publishing in the future. You are strongly encouraged to include: "© The University of Aberdeen" and your name as author(s) on all the material you personally author.

Downloading files (including pdfs) from existing e-resources and uploading them is strictly forbidden under the terms of our electronic licences, unless permission has been specifically granted by the service provider/copyright holder.  Some digital sources are covered by the CLA licence (use the Check Permissions Tool  ) however these can only be used under the terms of the licence, e.g. a copyright notice must be attached and use reported to the CLA.  For existing electronic resources, linking is always the easiest, quickest and safest option. 

Blackboard Ally

The recent implementation  of Ally within MyAberdeen has made it much easier for staff to create accessible teaching materials for their students. However, by offering students the means of creating alternative file formats we need to guard against the very real possibility that students may infringe UK copyright legislation.   Only materials created internally  can be offered in  alternative formats.  Please ensure that you disable the facility to download alternative formats for ALL files containing third-party copyright material such as scanned extracts from printed sources, or pdf copies of journal articles downloaded  from digital resources which you have made available in MyAberdeen under the terms of the CLA licence.

Using Images

Use of Images in Teaching

If you use images in your presentations or lectures, you should obtain permission from the copyright holder, or use images which have been created under a Creative Commons license which allows you to reproduce it for the purposes you require. However, the new "illustration for instruction" exception can be invoked provided your use of the image specifically illustrates a point you are making and is not simply used as a slide-filler. You should use the smallest amount of the image required to illustrate your point, and wherever possible, a low-resolution version of the image should be used. The exception also requires that you acknowledge the source of the image, either on the individual slide or in an additional slide at the end of presentation.

You may also scan images from print resources under the terms of the CLA Higher Education licence provided the source publication is covered by the licence. Copies may disembedded from the surrounding text, or scanned as part of a chapter/article. The scanned image should be accompanied by a copyright notice and the scan must be reported on the scanning spreadsheet

Additionally, under the terms of the CLA Higher Education Photocopying and Scanning licence you are not required to report such use.

If you use images to add interest to a slide or for any other reason which does not contribute to the point you are making, you must either have explicit permission to use the image, or have obtained it from a source of free to use images (See section on Copyright-Cleared Images).

Using Images in MyAberdeen

You may wish to upload the presentations, lectures or other teaching materials containing third-party images to MyAberdeen. In such cases, you must make it clear how the images selected relate to the content and teaching of the course. All slides must relate to a particular learning activity or illustrate a particular point you wish to convey.

Use low-resolution images, and use only as much of the image as necessary to convey the point you wish to make.

Make sure you acknowledge the source of the image.

These guidelines are based on the recent changes to copyright legislation which allow for the use for "illustration for instruction" of copyright materials provided the use is "fair dealing" and does not negatively impact on the market for the original work.

There is no statutory definition of fair dealing; it is a matter of judgement on the part of the individual as to whether they consider that the amount used is reasonable and does not exceed the minimum requirement to illustrate the point they wish to make. Provided you can demonstrate that the use is appropriate within the context of your teaching, and that using the material in this way will not prejudice sales of the original work, and you fully acknowledge the source, then it is likely that it can be considered fair dealing.

If your planned use of an image cannot reasonably be considered to be fair dealing, then you will need to obtain the permission of the rightsholder before use.

This advice also applies to images or clips downloaded from a website

The JISCLegal website includes a useful section on Copyright Law. The site is now archived but the content is still valid.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can create and add digital copies to a course collection?

Anyone teaching on a course may add copyright material to MyAberdeen. Course co-ordinators have ultimate responsibility to ensure that all materials are complicit with copyright/licensing regulations. Teaching staff using MyAberdeen are strongly encouraged to attend one of the regular training sessions organised by library staff.

Who is entitled to download/print out digital copies made under the CLA licence?

Digital copies stored in course (module/component) collections may be downloaded and printed out (once only) by:

  • each student enrolled on the particular course of study (module or component);
  • a tutor, lecturer or supervisor providing teaching or instruction on the course;
  • a visiting academic teaching or auditing the course.

What published printed material may I scan into MyAberdeen without either requiring permission or needing to report to the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency)?

Anything that is no longer in copyright i.e. where all authors, editors, composers, arrangers, librettists etc. died over 70 years ago AND the item was published more than 25 years ago.

Anything for which you own the copyright, but first check the agreement you signed with the publisher.

Under the "Illustration for instruction" exception, you may copy limited amounts of material provided it is used to illustrate a point. The extent of the work you can use under this exception has not been quantified -rather is subject to the "fair dealing" test. The use must not prejudice sales of the work and must be strictly for non-commercial purposes.

What quantity of text-based material may I scan into MyAberdeen under the terms of the University of Aberdeen’s CLA licence?

Provided the institution owns the material and it is not listed in either their standard list of excluded categories and works or their special list of works excluded from scanning under the HE licence in any single course collection you can scan:

  • One chapter or 10% of a book (whichever is greater)
  • One article from a journal issue
  • One paper from a set of conference proceedings
  • One complete libretto from an anthology of libretti, or one act from a single libretto
  • One poem or short story from an anthology, not exceeding 10 pages

How can I find out what publications are covered by the CLA Licence?

The CLA have a title search tool where you can check whether or not an individual title/edition is covered by the CLA licence

May I scan from an electronic version of a title?

Whilst the CLA licence allows you to scan from digital editions, the general advice is that where the University subscribes to or owns an electronic version of the publication (e.g. an e-journal or e-book), you should provide a link to the item, rather than scan from the digital version. This not only does away with the need to report the item, it also counts towards the university's usage statistics for that particular title.

Special rules apply in the case of printed materials published in the USA as the Copyright Clearance Centre (CCC) which acts on behalf of publishers operate a different licencing policy from that which exists in the UK and most other countries.  This means that only those publishers who have opted in to the CCC's licensing scheme are covered by the CLA licence.  You may therefore find when using the check permissions tool that works published exclusively in the USA will be excluded and cannot be copied.

Where US publications are licenced by the CLA through their agreement with the Copyright Clearance Centre (CCC) you should first check whether there is already a suitable digital version commercially available and if so, purchase or subscribe to this version (if it is reasonably practical to do so) rather then scanning  from the print version.

Affected titles can be identified on Check Permissions, which lists ‘USA’ as the country of publication.  Always make sure the place of publication of the copy you intend to use corresponds to the information as given in the Check Permissions tool.  If in doubt you can can contact the CLA for guidance at:

What if the same material is required for different courses, or different modules within the same course?

The CLA defines a “Course of Study” as “any whole course of study or any segment of a student’s studies which is normally regarded as a discrete and self-contained unit for the purposes of examination or assessment”. Therefore each individual module / component is designated a separate course of study.

The same extract from an individual publication can be made simultaneously available to students on more than one course of study, however a copyright notice must be appended for each module, and each use has to be reported separately to the CLA.

Different sections of the same item can be made available to students on another course of study , i.e. the 10% / 1 article rule applies to an individual module.

May I scan images?

Under the terms of the CLA licence you may scan a whole page visual image (e.g. a plate) or take a visual image from within a page. Each image should be fully attributed, a copyright notice must be appended and the use must be reported to the CLA The term image can include drawings, diagrams and photographs.

May I add photographs?

Copyright in photos lasts 70 years after the death of the photographer, or, if anonymous, 70 years from creation.

Copyright of photos taken after 1989 is owned by the person taking the photo (regardless of commission), commissioned works pre-1989 are owned by the person commissioning the work.

If the photograph is in copyright, and has been taken from a published work, you may include this under the terms of the CLA licence (see “can I scan images?”)

If it is a photograph you have taken yourself, you may add it (presuming it is not a photograph of an artistic work, and you have the permission of any people featured).

Under any other circumstances, you will need the permission of the copyright holder.

If you are looking for a photograph to illustrate a point, you may wish to search Flickr for photographs to which a creative commons licence has been attached

What about unpublished material?

Unpublished materials (such as letters, private papers, music, manuscripts, these and assignments) are not included within the terms of the CLA licence.

Where the author died after 31 December 1968, copyright lasts the usual 70 years. However, if the author died before 1 January 1969 the work will stay in copyright until 31 December 2039.

Permission is therefore always needed from the copyright holder in order to include scanned copies of unpublished work on MyAberdeen.

May I scan sheet music into MyAberdeen?

Only if both the work and the edition are out of copyright. Otherwise, because there is no licensing scheme to cover sheet music, you will need to seek explicit written permission from the copyright holder to scan music for inclusion in MyAberdeen.

May I digitise and upload copies of records/CDs?

No – whilst format shifting for personal use is now permitted by law, this does not extend to sharing content over the internet. To do this, you would in the first instance need to seek permission from PRS for Music.

May I scan a newspaper article?

Provided the newspaper is covered by the NLA licence, it can be scanned and used in my Aberdeen. Please note, most overseas newspapers can only be copied and not scanned. See the Title search link on the CLA website to check permissions under the NLA licence.

How about Google books?

Google Books has faced a number of legal challenges in recent years. It is safer to provide a link to a Google book rather than embedding text, however be aware that the constantly changing nature of the service means that material can be unexpectedly withdrawn.

May I use a PDF document or report that is made freely available on another website?

Documents appearing on other websites are likely to be subject to copyright. The safest way is to provide a link to the website that hosts the document rather than downloading and scanning.

What about using material I’ve written myself?

You’ll need to be certain that you still own the copyright. Be aware that if you have published your material elsewhere (e.g. as a chapter in a book or as journal article, you may have transferred your copyright in the published (or perhaps any version) of that work to your publisher. You should therefore check the agreement you signed with your publisher regarding re-use.

May I upload the Powerpoint slides I used in my lecture?

As an employee, copyright in your teaching materials will lie with the University of Aberdeen. As such, you are allowed to upload it to MyAberdeen. However, you will need to consider whether the slides incorporate any third-party copyright material such as scanned text or images from published material. If so, provided the material is included solely for the purpose of illustration for instruction, the copying is fair in that it does not negatively impact on the market for the original work and the source is adequately acknowledged, then it may be placed on MyAberdeen

How about if the Powerpoint includes sound clips?

Provide the clip forms part of the illustration for instruction and is not used merely as a backdrop, and that the extent of the clips used can be justified under fair dealing, you may use it in MyAberdeen.

May I record my lecture and add it to the VLE?

If the entire content of the lecture is your own, you may record it and add it to MyAberdeen. However, if it includes any third-party content, e.g. you are showing images, or clips from audio or video recordings you will need to ensure that this usage can be classed as fair dealing, it can be justified as illustration for instruction and full acknowledgement is given.

May I upload material from films or DVDs?

Short extracts from films and/or DVDs may be placed on MyAberdeen provided these are for the sole purpose of illustration for instruction and that the copying is fair. The use must also be non-commercial and full acknowledgement of the source material must be given.

May I upload TV/radio broadcasts?

TV and radio broadcasts made under the terms of the ERA License can be used for the non-commercial educational purposes of a licensed establishment. This use includes showing on interactive whiteboards in classrooms or via a Virtual Learning Environment such as MyAberdeen

May I upload content from the BBC iPlayer/ listen again service?

No. The university’s ERA licence covers broadcasts and BBC radio, but “on demand” services are not considered broadcasts under the terms of the licence and are excluded.

May I copy and paste material from other websites freely?

No. Copyright exists on the web in the same way as in published print materials. Normally it is best simply to link to the website, but if for any reason you do want to copy material for use in MyAberdeen, check the website terms and conditions and any copyright notices. Unless otherwise stated, you will need to identify the copyright holder (generally via the webmaster) and request permission to incorporate the material.

May I provide hyperlinks to other websites?

In general, a link is the safest way to use content from the web. Ensure that the link opens in a new browser window. Always fully acknowledge the source of the information and clearly identify the owner or author of the site you are linking to. Always link to the website's home page and avoid deep-linking (i.e. links which take you directly to a page within a website).

May I use video/audio from services such as YouTube?

Be extremely careful with material on youTube, as much of the content is likely to be infringing. Provide a link to the content rather than embedding content within MyAberdeen.

The material I want to make available isn’t permitted under either copyright law or the CLA licence. What can I do?

In this instance your only option is to seek direct permission from the copyright holder.

How do I go about this?

Be aware that this may take some time to arrange, so make sure to approach the rightsholder(s) well in advance. You should be specific about your requirements, e.g., the number of students who will be accessing the item, the use to which the material is to be put, i.e. for educational and not commercial use, and the length of time the material will be in used. You should also emphasise that My Aberdeen is a secure, authenticated electronic environment. Remember you will also need to ask for permission to digitise the material as well as to download/photocopy it.

What is the copyright notice?

Each scanned item added to MyAberdeen must contain a copyright notice. This should be completed and scanned as the first page of the item to which it refers.

Do I have to report my scanning activities to anyone?

All scanning activities undertaken from 1st June 2015 should be reported using the scanning spreadsheet. Please download a copy of this spreadsheet and use this to report the details of all scanning undertaken under the CLA licence during the academic session The spreadsheet should then be returned to the University Copyright Officer by 30th May 2016.

What information do I need to supply in order to comply with the CLA reporting requirements?

  • The module/component the material is made available for
  • The number of students undertaking the module
  • Journal/book title
  • Journal year or volume number
  • Author(s) of book/chapter/article
  • Page no. From
  • Page no. To
  • Source (A=from original paper version, B=from digital original licensed to institution, C=from copyright fee paid copy, D=from another HEI under sharing provision)

This data must be recorded in the CLA’s reporting spreadsheet. Please save as your own personal file and update it throughout the year each time you upload a digital copy. In June the copyright officer will issue a reminder to colleagues to submit their files, and will collate the data for return to the CLA.

What if my module isn’t running this year?

Digital copies should be routinely removed as soon as the teaching, examination and / or assessment of an individual unit or course of study is completed, unless the same course is likely to be taught in the following semester or academic year.

Can I re-use materials from previous sessions?

Before re-using materials from previous sessions, you must first check that the material is still covered by the CLA licence. Each year when rolling-over courses, you should check that none of the materials you have used during a session have been excluded from the licence in the interim. You can use the CLA Check Permissions tool to do this. Materials which have been excluded from the licence during the course of an academic year should be removed (and not simply archived) from MyAberdeen.

May I keep a back-up file of digital copies?

Backup copies can be made and used as an alternative to repeating the process of scanning to reload a Course Collection on the recommencement of the same course, or to populate a Course Collection for a different course of study, but remember you will have to attach a new copyright notice each time a digital copy is used for another class or in a new session.

What training is available on copyright issues for MyAberdeen?

Training can be arranged on a one to one basis or for small groups. Separate courses can be provided for course co-ordinators and administrative staff. There are also general courses run in each half-session. These are advertised via the Course Booking system

Who should I contact if I have any copyright-related enquiries?

You should contact the Copyright Team at