Copyright Matters

Whether you are a student or a member of staff, Copyright is an important and unavoidable part of University life. It protects work and stops other people using it without permission.

The University recognises that Copyright compliance is both a legal requirement for the institution and a personal responsibility, and treats failure to comply as a disciplinary offence.

Academics: please see Copyright guidelines and good practice for course materials, lectures and recorded lectures

You can Contact us for further information, however, please remember that we can offer assistance but we do not provide legal advice.

Copyright Essentials

Copyright protects the rights of anyone who creates, and/or owns, a piece of work – literary (e.g. books, journals, computer programmes), dramatic, musical or artistic (e.g. drawings, photos, sculptures), sound recordings, films, broadcasts, and the typographical arrangement of published editions.

Any original (i.e. not copied from someone else) work qualifies. It is a 'bundle of rights' that is a part of the overall family of 'Intellectual Property Rights'. It has two main areas - 'Moral Rights' and 'Economic Rights'. It means that no-one else may make any form of copy of that work without the permission of the copyright owner or a licence to do so.

In the first instance, the creator of a work is normally the ‘first owner’, but rights may be passed on or shared (through contract, licensing, sale or inheritance). The exception to this is where a work is created as part of a contract of employment, in which case it is owned by the employer. Other parties may also be involved, eg, publishers, collaborators etc.

As for the commissioning of work – for work commissioned after 1st August 1989 the 'ownership' goes to the author/creator - not the commissioner. The only way that this can be altered is through agreement in an independent contract stating otherwise. Work commissioned before this date is 'usually' the property of the commissioning person or body.

Copyright does not have to be registered in the UK, but is an automatic right that comes into existence with the creation of the work in question.

The University of Wolverhampton recognises that copyright compliance is a legal requirement for the institution and also a personal responsibility, and treats failure to comply as a disciplinary offence.

The practice of good Copyright awareness is becoming more and more important, especially in the creative atmosphere of Higher Education Institutions such as colleges and universities. With the addition of the Internet and e-learning programmes into the creative 'cooking pot' of these institutions, all works used (past, present and in the future) need to be properly managed, to encourage and reward creativeness and also to protect the work from 'infringing actions' by others.

Copyright is protected in most countries in the world by international agreements, which means that you need only worry about observing UK copyright law when you are working in the UK. This is not so simple when working within the Internet, which has no geographical boundaries. The laws with copyright are complex and legislation and licensing options are continually developing. The latest amendments to the Copyright law (the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) were made in 2014.

Copyright protection starts as soon as a work is created

  • Once copyright has expired, anyone can use or copy the work (though you should still give a full acknowledgement of the source of any material copied)
  • The length of copyright depends on the type of work and how long ago it was created

The copyright duration table below provides some general guidelines:

Type of workHow long copyright usually lasts

Written, dramatic, musical and artistic work

70 years after the author’s death

Sound and music recording

70 years from when it’s first published


70 years after the death of the director, screenplay author and composer


50 years from when it’s first broadcast

Layout of published editions of written, dramatic or musical works

25 years from when it’s first published

(Information republished from the Government webpage How long copyright lasts under the Open Government Licence v3.0)


As soon as an original work is created, it has copyright protection.

If you wish, you can add the © symbol to your work, with your name and the year, but the work is still protected by copyright without it.


Staying within the law

Before you make any form of copy of someone else’s work, you need to ensure that you are authorised to do so.

It is good practice to acknowledge/attribute your source – even if you have permission.

Refer to Copyright guidelines and good practice for course materials, lectures and recorded lectures and to our 'Quick Guide to staying within the law' information

Licences and Permissions

The University holds licences from official licensing organisations to enable the limited copying of resources for educational purposes.

These licences are:

If permission to use copyright works is not available under any of these licences, you may need to obtain specific permission from the creator or copyrights holder or to check the terms and conditions specified for the specific library resource, website or software (an example of this is the BBC’s Terms of Use).

There are also a number of copyright legal ‘exceptions’ which may be appropriate (see below). 


Using materials for learning and teaching

You can make sure all the resources you share with your students are legal by following the information given in Copyright guidelines and good practice for course materials, lectures and recorded lectures and 'Quick guide to staying within the law'. 

Further information about copyright exceptions can be found on the Jisc guide, ‘Exceptions to infringement of copyright’ (June 2014), or on the Government’s Intellectual Property webpages.

Lecturers can photocopy or have scanned up to the following limits (per module) from publications covered under the CLA licence:-


  • Chapter
  • Article from a journal
  • Scene from a play
  • Conference paper
  • Report of a judicial proceedings case
  • Short story, poem or play (of 10 pages or less) from an anthology


10% of the total publication

Whichever is greater. 

Although Canvas makes it easier than ever to incorporate a range of documents and media in your modules, you do still need to be aware of copyright restrictions before using anything that was not created by you. Please refer to our 'Quick guide to staying within the law'. If you have any queries about copyright, or embedding information resources in Canvas, your Liaison Librarian will be glad to help. 

Under the ‘illustration for instruction’ exception in the updated Copyright Designs and Patents Act, all types of copyright works can be copied as long as it is for the sole purpose of instruction.

This exception includes copying for the purpose of examination. However, there are 2 important points to bear in mind:

  • Sufficient acknowledgement of the copied material must be included by the lecturers setting the examination papers
  • The copied material is subject to fair dealing (ie, short extracts where possible and only accessible to those being examined). 

Most published books/journals have a copyright notice inside the publication with the relevant information, but you can always contact the publisher if necessary. Films, TV broadcasts and sound recordings may have more than one copyright owner, so it is best to contact the publisher or distributor to check. 


For items not covered by the University licences you should contact the copyright owner with as much information as possible about the material you want to use and how you intend to use it.

The following information should be included in your request:

  • reference information - including ISBN/ISSN, author, title, year
  • exact content required - page numbers, section names, volume for journals
  • usage information - including the number of copies
  • how the copies will be used - thesis, course work, whether published in another work, on web site – internal, public
  • the format - digitised, printed, etc.
  • the availability - UK only or overseas
  • the time period - when it would be available from/to

Note that you must get permission before using the material. If you do not receive a reply then you do not have permission. 



The University holds an ERA Licence (Educational Recording Agency).

This allows educational establishments ‘to create and use resources obtained from broadcast materials whether on television or radio. Educational establishments need an ERA Licence if they enable students or teachers to use material sourced from broadcasts for teaching purposes. This includes enabling access to catch up services of UK broadcasters when terms and conditions link with the ERA Licence’ (from the ERA webpage). 

The best source of broadcasted content can be found in Box of Broadcasts (BoB). See our page on how to use the ERA licence and BoB for more information.

Generally speaking, if you did not create a YouTube video, someone else owns the copyright for that work. Usually, you can use the link to a YouTube video. Be aware though, you cannot use YouTube material that has been posted illegally (e.g. someone publishing clips from their favourite TV show).

However, it is not advisable to embed video clips (e.g. on a Canvas page), without the express permission of the creator of the material.

Please treat material published on the internet/websites etc., as you would a book (i.e. it may be available for you to look at and read- but not to use for educational purposes). If you want to use it please contact the webpage/rights owner and ask permission.

As with using YouTube items, if you provide a link to an item, please fully reference the link, it's a requirement as well as a courtesy.

Be aware with 'free sites' as well - check the 'terms and conditions' links (usually found at the bottom of the homepage) for the permitted use. It may, for example, be free to view, but further use may need permission.



Third party material is any work that was not created by you, or where you are no longer the rights holder (such as, a journal article that you have had published).

You may be able to use third party material under the exceptions to copyright law (please see the section on What are the Copyright Exceptions and ‘Fair Dealing’? for more details).

However, you must always:

  • consider whether the proposed use of the material comes within ‘fair dealing’ – both in quantity and importance of the extract
  • ensure that the use of an extract does not affect the ability of the rights holder to benefit from their work
  • ensure that the amount of the extract is no more than is necessary for the specific purpose for which it is used
  • accompany any use of third party material with sufficient acknowledgement (unless this is impossible for reasons of practicality, or otherwise)

The best advice is to be careful as to the amount being quoted and, also, to think about its quality as well as the quantity, and the likely commercial implications of including the quote. If there is any doubt then contact the rights owners for permission.

Statement on Copyright

For more information please refer to the University's Statement on Copyright (Word doc 65k).

Copyright Infringements

What do I do if I notice a potential copyright infringement?

If a student or employee of the University suspects any potential copyright infringement, or if they receive an external complaint alleging potential copyright infringement by the University, a student or an employee of the University, they must immediately notify  Please include the following information:

  1. Your full contact details
  2. The full bibliographic details or citation of the material, sufficient to identify it without ambiguity
  3. The full URL where you found the material
  4. Details of the alleged rights holder

In such circumstances, the University may, pending the outcome of the external complaint, temporarily take down the allegedly infringing material, in accordance with the University’s takedown policy.