Copyright relating to Online Learning & Social Media


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses are online courses which are openly available to members of the public across the world. The open nature of MOOCs increases the risk of copyright infringement so where possible it is advisable to generate your own content.

  • Only use copyright content for which you have permission or which has been licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons or similar licence, and always acknowledge the rights holder. 
  • Although small amounts of copyright material may be included in MOOCs under the copyright exceptions, the risk of infringement is higher because of the open nature of the courses. 
  • If the material is publicly available online link to it rather than include it in the course but make sure that it isn't behind a paywall and if you suspect that the material has been illegally uploaded look for an alternative.  
  • Obtaining copyright permission can be a lengthy process so, once again, wherever possible, use content that you have created yourself. 

In-house videos and podcasts created for educational or promotional purposes

Third party content 

  • Care must be taken when using third party content in video or sound recordings created for educational or promotional purposes. 
  • If using copyrighted content, always use materials for which you have permission or which been made available under a Creative Commons licence ( or make use of one of the copyright exceptions (
  • The copyright exception for illustration for instruction permits the use of limited amounts of copyright material created for teaching/learning purposes and placed in a closed environment such as KEATS.
  • If copyrighted content is included in videos and other materials that are created and made publicly available for promotional purposes the exception does not apply and the risk of copyright infringement significantly increases.
  • Where possible make use of material that you have created yourself. 

User-created content 

  • When recording individuals, it is good practice to ask them to complete a release form. A release form ensures you have permission to copy, edit, publish and distribute a person's image, likeness and sound for defined purposes (e.g. educational materials, conference presentation, marketing and promotional activities).
  • As a rule, students retain copyright for materials they create during the course of their studies while employers typically claim ownership of IP for materials created by employees in the course of their employment.

Blog entries and blogging services

  • Blog entries are covered by copyright law, so if you wish to reproduce content from another blog you will need to obtain permission unless the material has been licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons or similar licence.
  • Reuse of proportionate amounts is permissible under the copyright exceptions as long as the conditions of fair dealing are met and the use is compatible with one of the exceptions allowable in law, but caution is advised and you should create your own content where possible. 
  • You do not need permission to link to another blog but if you choose to embed a link to third party content always check that the content provider allows this.  
  • If using a blog service, always check the terms and conditions before using the service to avoid transferring your rights to the service provider (see Protecting your copyright below). 

Social media and social networking sites

As a rule, original content posted on social media (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr etc.) is protected by copyright law. As with other copyright protected works you will need permission to copy or reuse copyrighted material posted on social media unless you have permission from the rights owner or it is licensed for reuse. 

  • You should not assume that just because material has been posted online it is freely available for reuse or is out of copyright.
  • YouTube employs an automated 'Content ID' which identifies potentially infringing material but many other sites operate a take-down policy that relies on notifications of possible infringement rather than actively policing content that has been uploaded, so caution is advised when copying third party material posted on social media platforms. 
  • If you do not have the necessary permissions or the work has not been published under a Creative Commons or similar licence you may be able to make use of one of the copyright exceptions as long as the conditions for fair dealing are met.
  • Although the exception for criticism and review applies to all copyrighted works, the copying of photographs without permission may not meet the conditions of fair dealing and so is considered high risk.  
  • Obtaining permission can be time consuming so unless the content is licensed for reuse you should use original material where possible. 

Protecting your copyright 

If you are generating original material for a blog entry or a social networking site you should always check the service provider's terms and conditions to make sure that you are not transferring copyright ownership for the material you post.

In most cases you will retain your copyright but will be asked to grant the service provider a non-exclusive right to copy, edit and re-distribute your work without requiring further permission, as in the example below from Twitter's Terms of Service:

“By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”

It is not necessary to register copyright for your content since copyright is automatically assigned. However, adding a copyright symbol can make it clear to others that the work is copyrighted. Alternatively, if you apply a Creative Commons licence to your work you can specify the conditions under which the material can be reused while still retaining your rights to the work. 

We acknowledge the following resources as contributing to the content of this web page:

Jane Secker with Chris Morrison (2016), Copyright and E-learning: A Guide for Practitioners, 2nd edition, London: Facet Publishing

  • Last Updated Aug 24, 2022
  • Views 905
  • Answered By Pete Garner

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