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Library Guides

Copyright for Academics: Introduction

This guide provides guidance on copyright matters for teaching staff


This guide provides an overview of the main copyright and Intellectual property issues for those involved in teaching at the University of Westminster.

Please note that, while University Library staff are happy to advise on copyright issues and to assist in obtaining copyright-cleared items through our digitisation and Inter-library loan services, it is the responsibility of individual academic staff and students to ensure that their use of any materials for learning and teaching complies with UK copyright law and the terms of our licences.

What is Copyright ?

Copyright is legislation that automatically protects creative work from use without permission. 

In the UK, the relevant copyright legislation is the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. While you do not need to be familiar with the legislation in detail, this guide provides you with a guide to copyright terminology and law that might impact on you.

Ideas are not protected until formed into a work - copyright arises in a work as soon as it is created. 

Types of work protected are:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustration and photography
  • original non-literary written work, such as software, web content and databases
  • sound and music recordings
  • film and television recordings
  • broadcasts
  • the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works

Copyright prevents work from being:

  • Copied
  • Distributed
  • Rented or lent
  • Performed
  • Adapted
  • Put on the internet

Exceptions and fair dealing

Exceptions to copyright for teaching

Several exceptions exist to allow copyright work to be used for education purposes.

  • You can copy work in any medium so long as it's solely to illustrate a point and the use can be considered fair dealing.
  • You can perform, play or show copyright works for educational purposes but only if the audience consist of members of the educational establishment.
  • You can record a television programme for educational purposes if there is no licence in place. However the University subscribes to an ERA licence , which allows UK Westminster staff and students to record and access broadcast television programmes through Box of Broadcasts
  • You can make photocopies for non-commercial instruction if no licence is in place. Please note the University subscribes to a Copyright Licensing Agency licence (CLA), which allows you to copy one article, chapter or 10% of the total (whichever is greater)
  • Non-commercial research and private study - this allows students and researchers to make limited copies of all types of copyrighted works for non-commercial research or private study
  • Criticism, review and reporting current events
  • Helping disabled people - Under this exception, the library can organise accessible format books to be made on behalf of a student with a disability, generally through the use of RNIB Bookshare. Talk to your Academic Engagement Librarian about this service

Attribution is an essential part of copyright compliance; ensure that the work you re-use is sufficiently acknowledged 

For more details on copyright exceptions for teaching, consult the guidance from the Intellectual Property Office

Fair Dealing

When using work under certain exceptions the amount used must be ‘fair dealing’, such as for:

  • research and private study
  • criticism or review
  • news reporting

Fair dealing is a legal term that refers to whether use is fair or infringes copyright.
This means that the amount used must be

  • reasonable*
  • appropriate
  • necessary

Use must not affect market opportunities or cause the creator to lose out financially.

*It is generally accepted that 5% is a reasonable amount.
For images it is suggested that a low resolution of the image is used.


Who owns your work?

As an employee of the University of Westminster the first owner of intellectual property generated in the course of employment is the University.

The ownership of content produced in the course of your research, including data and published outputs is set out in the University of Westminster Intellectual Property Policy which you are advised to consult.

In the case of externally-funded research or consultancy contract, the University is the first owner of the content, although they can assign ownership of the material to the project sponsor if the contract so requires. 

The policy applies to all types of staff including technical and administrative staff and part-time lecturers.

There are some exceptions to this rule including the outcomes of scholarly activity. The term “scholarly activity” means activity that is generally self-managed and may include the production of books, articles, conference papers, computer software, creative work in all media, professional updating and practice and personal academic development.

It excludes work and results essential for the discharge of research and consultancy projects financed from external sources. It also excludes any material for distribution to students.

Further advice is available in the Guide to Intellectual Property  and you may request a copy of the University’s Intellectual Property Policy from

Social media terms and conditions

If you use social media or social networking sites, then pay attention to any terms and conditions of use. You should check the type of licence you might be granting to the site relating to the re-use of your data such as your own personal information and any content that you upload to the site such as images and photographs.

You should also be mindful when sharing content on social media; for example if you include photographs or images then it is possible that others may decide to reuse them without your permission. If content is particularly sensitive or valuable then be careful before deciding to share it on social media. 

If you wish to re-use images belonging to others but shared on sites such as Twitter or Facebook, then remember these are protected by copyright and you are advised to obtain permission if you wish to re-publish them.

If you are responsible for University-branded social media accounts, you should refer to the University's Social Media Policy and guidance.

Case study - Youtube

UK copyright laws apply when uploading or downloading videos in YouTube in the UK.
By embedding YouTube videos on your site, you are agreeing to YouTube terms of service. The users are responsible for complying with copyright.

Further information available from YouTube terms of service


Credits and disclaimer

Disclaimer: The guide in no way substitutes for formal legal advice. If you are in any doubt or require further information we recommend you consult the sources of further advice at the end of this guide.