Copyright for lecturers

Copyright for lecturers

Using third-party material is a crucial part of teaching and creating meaningful and engaging learning materials. For instance, you might want to use photos in a lecture, share an article for your students to evaluate, or show a film to a seminar group.

Understanding copyright will enable you to use third-party works fairly and avoid legal infringement without unnecessarily restricting students’ access to this valuable learning material.

General advice

Copyright has a limited duration. If you are using older works, these may be in the public domain and therefore free to copy and reuse.

Material that is still in copyright cannot be freely copied, even for educational use.

To copy or reuse copyright material, your use must be covered by either:

  • A copyright exception – provisions in copyright law which allow limited copying in certain contexts.
  • A licence – permission granted by the copyright holder, usually for a fee, although this may be under an open licence.

How to reuse material

The guide below explains how you can reuse different kinds of material in your teaching using either a copyright exception or a licence.

Shorter extracts (all works)

You can use short extracts from in-copyright works where permitted under the section 32 copyright exception covering ‘illustration for instruction’. This can be for delivering teaching or setting exams and does not require permission, payment or reporting of the copying.

To meet the requirements of the exception, your use of the material should:

  • Be for the sole purpose of illustration for instruction
  • Be for non-commercial purposes (standard teaching at the University is considered non-commercial in this regard)
  • Use no more than the minimum required to make the teaching point
  • Include an attribution to the original author or creator, unless this is not practical
  • Be fair to the copyright holder and not affect the original market for the work by creating a substitute – see our advice on fair dealing for further information.

This exception covers material of all types and cannot be overridden by a contract or licence.

If your intended use does not meet the requirements above, you cannot copy material under this exception. See below for other options that might allow you to copy under a licence instead.

Longer extracts or complete works

In most cases, copying an entire work, or a substantial part of it (such as a whole chapter or article), will not be covered by a copyright exception.

If the work is available digitally, consider whether you need to make a copy or whether you can simply link to the original. This might be a link to a version provided by the Library or one that has been legally made available online. You can use Primo to search the Library’s collections and generate links to library resources.

You should avoid uploading copies of electronic library resources to MyAberdeen or sending out copies to students as this can infringe the publisher’s licence conditions.

If you do need to copy, there are licences available which cover different kinds of material.

Book chapters and journal articles

The University has a licence with the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA). This licence allows us to copy extracts from a wide range of books and journals for students enrolled on specific courses. This can be up to whichever is the greater of:

  • 1 chapter from a book
  • 1 article from a journal issue
  • 1 paper from a set of conference proceedings
  • 1 short story or poem of up to 10 pages from an anthology
  • 1 case from a report of judicial proceedings
  • 10% of a whole publication.

You can check whether a publication is covered under the CLA licence by using the CLA check permissions tool.

If the publication is covered, you can request a scan for students on your course via the Reading List Service. The scan will be made available to your students via your online reading list in MyAberdeen or equivalent VLE. The Library will create a high-quality scan that meets accessibility requirements, add the necessary copyright notice, and take care of all the checking and record keeping. Scans can only be used on the specific courses they have been requested for.

If the publication is not covered by the CLA licence, you may be permitted to copy up to 5% of the work using the ‘copying of extracts by educational establishments’ exception. This exception may only be used for works which are not covered by the CLA licence.

Web resources

Most web resources are not covered by copying licences such as the CLA licence. Consider whether simply linking to the resource is suitable for your purposes.

If you need to copy and this is not covered by the exception outlined in the short extracts (all works) section above, check the web resource itself for any licensing information or terms of use. If it has a reuse licence, such as a Creative Commons licence, this should be clearly indicated on the resource. If you can’t see a licence, check the page header or the footer at the bottom of the webpage. This is where terms of use and copyright information are typically located.

If you cannot find any reuse information, assume that the author has reserved all their rights under copyright. In this case, you might need to consider requesting permission from the author.

Images and photographs

The ‘illustration for instruction’ copyright exception is usually only considered applicable to shorter extracts. However, in some instances it could be argued that reproducing an image in its entirety is ‘fair’ if this is necessary for the teaching point you need to make. You can increase the likelihood that your use is ‘fair’ by using a lower-resolution version or a limited section of the image, if possible.

Remember, you can also request scans of images from books or journal articles under the CLA licence for use in the VLE.

You may wish to use images that are not directly illustrating a teaching point, such as for purely decorative purposes in a presentation. For uses like this, consider using images that are either in the public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons or similar open licence. See our external resources page for more advice on where to find this kind of material.


The NLA Education Establishment Licence permits users in the University to copy from both printed and online NLA media access publications for use in the classroom or for private study.

The licence includes all UK national newspapers and allows you to copy a cutting, such as an article, report or photo, to give to students. Up to 250 print copies are permitted and some titles also permit using a digital cutting on a VLE.

Film and television

Copyright works can be shown or performed in a classroom setting for the purpose of instruction under the Section 34 copyright exception.

The audience must be solely university students and staff. If done in an online classroom, this should be via a secure platform which is only accessible to registered students, such as MyAberdeen or equivalent VLE. The performance should be from a legally obtained copy of the material.

The University has an ERA licence to cover the recording of TV broadcasts and films for teaching purposes. Box of Broadcasts (BoB) National is a platform which you can use to legally record current broadcasts under the ERA licence. It also gives access to a huge archive of programmes and films. Staff and students can rewatch material hosted on the platform, and you can use it to create shorter clips to embed within your teaching.

If you are using material under the ERA licence, make sure it is only shown or accessible to University of Aberdeen staff and students.

You can find more detailed guidance on using films in your teaching in the Code of Fair Practice for the use of Audiovisual Works in Film Education produced by Learning On Screen.


Both sound recordings and printed music can be protected by copyright.

Sound recordings

Copyright works can be played or performed in a classroom setting under the Section 34 copyright exception. The music must be for the purpose of instruction. Other uses, such as playing music to entertain students before a lecture, would not normally be covered by the exception.

The audience must be solely university students and staff. If done in an online classroom, this should be via a secure platform which is only accessible to registered students, such as MyAberdeen. The performance should be from a legally obtained copy of the material.

The section 34 exception does not cover making additional copies or converting material into another format, such as recording a lecture where a whole work is played. However, it may be possible to justify playing an entire work or movement under the ‘illustration for instruction’ exception if this is necessary to illustrate your teaching point, such as playing an entire song to demonstrate its use of a particular musical form.

Printed music

Musical scores receive copyright protection which lasts for 70 years after the death of the composer. However, the layout of printed music also has copyright protection which lasts for 25 years, so a recent edition of a score may still be in copyright even if the composer died more than 70 years ago.

You can copy excerpts of printed music under the section 32 ‘illustration for instruction’ exception. However, be aware that you should copy no more than the minimum needed for your purpose. Copying an entire work or movement from a work may be hard to justify under the exception.

You can copy material for use in lectures, seminars, or written exam questions but not for students to perform from.

Licencing schemes

Copying music is not covered by our CLA or ERA licences. If your intended use falls outside the statutory copyright exceptions, you may be able to obtain permission through an alternative licensing scheme. Some organisations that give further information are:


The University has a subscription to Digimap which provides UK mapping data for higher education. Please refer to the licensing agreement to see what use is permitted with the different Digimap modules.

For other online maps, please refer to the specific terms of use for that mapping service.

Copyright in your teaching materials

When you produce teaching materials in the course of your employment, the copyright is held by the University of Aberdeen as your employer. The University automatically grants you a non-exclusive licence so you can use this material in your teaching and research for as long as you remain an employee of the University.

Teaching material should not be used outside the University without permission. This includes current or former students posting this material online, for example via social media or tutoring sites. If you discover someone is reusing your teaching material in this way without permission, please contact us for advice.

If you are leaving the University and want to reuse your teaching material elsewhere, you will need to contact your Head of School to request permission.

If you need further information about intellectual property, including copyright, relating to your work at the University or commercialising your teaching material, please see the Spin-outs and IP Policy.

Further help

If you’d like further help with any copyright-related issues, get in touch with us: