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University of York Library
Library Subject Guides

Copyright: a Practical Guide

For Teachers

Lectures and course materials

A teacher or a student can reproduce an extract from a copyright work for the purposes of "giving or receiving instruction", with full attribution.  Scenarios covered include lectures (in person or recorded),  e-learning materials and classroom handouts,  student assignments and exams.  

Clip art illustration of a chalkboard, with A B C written on it'Instruction' can take place anywhere, with any audience, providing there's no direct charge to participate. 

Your use must be defensible as "fair dealing":

  • relevant to the topic under discussion (not merely decorative)
  • fully attributed
  • a 'reasonable' amount 
  • for a limited audience (not published on the open web)
  • for a limited time 
  • with no impact on the rights-holder's market —  if you are copying from a published work, consider asking the Library to buy the original.

In 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled that "a link is not a copy". Consider whether you can quote or embed the url for the material concerned rather than copying it?


Be particularly careful when incorporating other people's images in your teaching materials: even if the original figure is integrated within a text, it may be a copyright work in its own right (check the credits).  It may be difficult to defend your copying as 'fair' if you reproduce a high-value image in its entirety.

See the Using Images tab for further information, including recommended sources of copyright-cleared images. 


Clip art illustration of a seated cross legged figure, reading a bookMaking copies of scholarly publications for students to read independently may be treated differently in law - refer to the Course Reading tab for more information.

Lecture capture

Icon depicting a camera on a tripodCopyright material which is published in a recorded lecture is likely to benefit from the same "fair dealing" exceptions as material used in the classroom (see above), providing the audience is restricted.  

University of York lecturers should refer to the E-Learning Development Team's guidelines for the Replay lecture capture service.


If your recorded lecture may be made available to a wider audience, you should consider editing out any material which is not your own, unless it has an appropriate licence (e.g. CC-BY-NC). 

UK higher education IT specialists JISC have produced a guide to Recording Lectures: Legal Considerations (2015).

Clip art illustration showing three smartphones in a line, the screens showing a smiling face, a neutral face and a sad faceUniversity of York students viewing a recorded lecture or making a recording independently should be aware that sharing the recording with anyone other than your tutor may breach copyright on two counts:

  • The lecturer or the University owns the copyright to the original content
  • Other people's copyright material which was included in the lecture may be licensed for classroom use only.

Furthermore, sharing a recording or photo of your lecturer without their permission could infringe their right to privacy (the same for any members of the audience who can be identified).

University of York students may find themselves subject to disciplinary procedures if they don't follow the University's guidelines for recording lectures.

Showing films and playing music

Clip art illustration of a cinema carton of popcorn with a pair of card cinema 3D glassesTeachers and students are able to perform music or drama, play recorded music, or screen a film or TV broadcast, for an educational activity, without infringing copyright in the UK.  But the law does not cover inviting a non-University audience, charging for tickets, or recording the performance.


To show a film or play music at a student society event, open lecture or other extra-curricular activity, you will need to apply for a licence from the appropriate agency.  

Further guidance is provided on using video content for educational purposes online.

Clip art illustration of a CD In addition to the Library's Audio-Visual Collection of CDs and DVDs, University of York staff and students have access to several online collections of film and music for use in teaching and research,  such as the Classical Music LibraryOpera in Video, and the Yorkshire Film Archive.  Box of Broadcasts (see below) includes a wide selection of classic and contemporary films which have been broadcast on TV.  In all cases, check the terms of use to ensure your intended activity is covered.

Copying an extract from a commercially-distributed film or musical work may be defensible as Illustration for Instruction under UK copyright law, providing your use is 'fair dealing' (see 'Lectures and course materials', left).  If you're relying on an uncurated host platform as your source (such as YouTube),  share the url with students rather than making a copy of what may be unlicensed material.

For advice about copying sheet music, refer to the Course Reading section of this guide.

TV broadcasts

To use pre-recorded broadcasts or catch-up TV for teaching purposes,  a licence is required.

The University of York holds the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) Licence, which covers most UK free-to-air TV channels and radio stations.  Lecturers and tutors can upload their own recordings to the VLE for on-screen viewing in the UK, or take advantage of the British Universities' Film & Video Council's Box of Broadcasts for streaming,  requesting and sharing recordings from ERA-licensed channels:


For channels which are not covered by the ERA Licence, check the broadcasters' terms and conditions to establish whether you can record or share their material for teaching purposes.

Conferences and public events

Utilising other people's work (third party material) without their permission at a conference or event could potentially breach their copyright. The legal exceptions and licences which allow you to use extracts of copyrighted material in class may be difficult to justify if the event is open to the public, or if it will be streamed or recorded and made available online. You should be especially careful if it is a commercial event or if your audience has paid for tickets.

If you are preparing a presentation for a public event then you could consider asking rightsholders for permission to use their material or look for openly-licensed alternatives such as Creative Commons-licensed images. You should also consider protecting copyright in your own work and in any recordings made from the event. 

If you are organising an event then you should ask your speakers to confirm that they have obtained clearance to use any third party material contained in their presentations. If the event will be recorded then you should also obtain their consent and explain how the recording will be used; the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team provide a template speaker release form (link to Word Document) which outlines these considerations. Recordings will also be subject to the University's Privacy Notice for photography and video.

The AV wiki outlines some of the considerations involved in playing music at an event.