Copyright exceptions for education

Copyright exceptions for education

To minimise the burden on teachers and students who want to make use of copyright materials as part of their teaching and learning experience, the law includes a number of exceptions that allow for the use of all types of copyright work for certain educational purposes. Exceptions only apply if no other legal agreement exists (such as the CLA licence).

The most important exception for education permits the use of any type of work for the purpose of teaching. This means that copyright in the work is not infringed by an individual teacher or a student 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. Also, the law makes clear that 'giving or receiving instruction' allows copying when setting examination questions, communicating questions to students, and answering questions.

However, the exception only applies under the following conditions:

  • The purpose of the use is non-commercial
  • Where practical, there should be sufficient acknowledgement of authorship of the work
  • The use of the material is fair

There is no legal definition of what is fair or unfair in this context. It is an issue ultimately decided by courts depending on a number of factors, such as the amount of the work taken and whether the use would commercially compete with the copyright owner’s exploitation of the material. According to the UK government 'minor uses, such as displaying a few lines of poetry on an interactive whiteboard, will be permitted, but uses which would undermine sales of teaching materials will still need a licence'. Please view the government's guide on exceptions to copyright for more information.

If you have a specific question, why not try the GCU online UK copyright advisor.

Other licences

For content not covered by copyright exceptions the University holds a number of licences:

  • Photocopying and scanning of published material for distribution to students - CLA Licence
  • Use of audio-visual broadcast material - ERA Plus Licence
  • Photocopying and scanning of newspaper content - NLA Licence

Attribution: Soetendorp, R., Meletti, B. Education. Available under a CC-BY 3.0 License