How can I use copyrighted material when teaching?


Copyright has significant implications for teaching within HE institutions. It should be a consideration whenever you:

  • Provide reproductions (e.g. handouts, photocopies and module booklets) for students from copyrighted works
  • Distribute film, television or other copyrighted recordings to your class
  • Distribute or make available scans and publisher’s pdf files from copyrighted works

While copyright legislation exerts certain limits on what materials can be copied and provided for teaching purposes, licences and exceptions in UK law also enable a certain amount of copying while allowing the copyright holder to be remunerated.

There are several licences paid for by the university that allow various kinds of copying. The CLA HE licence for photocopying, scanning and digital re-use is probably the most used, but there are others that may give you useful additional rights with regards to making copyrighted material available. See here for information about the licences that King’s holds.

Copyright exceptions for teaching

In 2014 a number of copyright exceptions were introduced into UK law, modifying the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. They are intended to support greater usage of copyrighted materials for non-commercial purposes, including teaching and learning.

This guide explains about the new exceptions related to Education & Teaching in more detail.

The changes to the law apply these exceptions to a wider range of copyright works which were previously not covered – such as artistic works (including photographs), films and sound recordings. They also permit sharing of copies over secure distance learning networks.

Prior to these changes, UK law allowed limited copying of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works for the purposes of teaching, provided it was not by means of a reprographic process. This meant that copying by hand was permitted, but the use of laptops and interactive whiteboards was not. The law has been updated with a general “fair dealing” exception, allowing copying of works in any medium as long as all of the following conditions apply:

  • the work must be used solely to illustrate a point
  • the use of the work must not be for commercial purposes
  • the use must be considered 'fair dealing'
  • it must be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement

What is fair dealing?

“Fair dealing” is a legal term used to establish whether a use of copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright. There is no statutory definition of fair dealing - it will always be a matter of fact, degree and impression in each case. The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work? Factors that have been identified by the courts as relevant in determining whether a particular dealing with a work is fair, include:

  • Does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it, causing the owner to lose revenue, then it is not likely to be fair.
  • Is the amount of the work taken reasonable and appropriate? Was it necessary to use the amount that was taken? Usually only part of a work may be used.

The relative importance of any one factor will vary according to the case in hand and the type of dealing in question.

Copyright exceptions for educational use only apply to those works not covered by any other available licence, for example, the CLA licence. When an extract could be copied under the CLA licence, the exceptions for teaching and education do not apply.


  • Last Updated Aug 30, 2022
  • Views 1087
  • Answered By Pete Garner

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