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Copyright Issues in Education

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Commercial enterprises usually have at least a general awareness of the risks associated with infringing intellectual property rights. Common sense suggests that profiting from someone else’s intellectual property without their permission could lead to trouble.

Less obvious are the dangers that intellectual property rights pose to educational establishments. Even if no profit is being made and an organisation is non-commercial in nature, intellectual property rights are not a free-for-all. Education is subject to less stringent restrictions on the use of copyrighted material than businesses but care must still be taken to keep within the rules.

Copyright Ownership

Copyright ownership usually rests with the original author of the work; the author may be an employer if the work is created in the course of a person’s employment. It can reside in literary, artistic, musical or dramatic works. Protection is granted to owners in the UK by the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 which aims to balance the rights of owners with the interests of users.

Copyright protection enables owners to retain their ownership while granting users a licence to use the works within certain parameters e.g. the purchaser of a CD may listen to it but not copy it.

Copyright Issues in Education

Educational establishments are generally subject to the same restrictions on the use of copyright works as other users. However, there are certain exceptions to the rules on copyright that seek to make education more practicable, referred to as permitted uses:

  • Where the use is non-commercial.
  • Where the use is acknowledged.

In practice the exceptions are likely to feature when:

  • Copying is done for non-commercial research or private study.
  • Copying is done for the purpose of instruction and acknowledged e.g. on a blackboard.
  • Copying is done for the purpose of examination and is sufficiently acknowledged.
  • Extracts of copyright material are used and acknowledged in teaching material.
  • A work is performed in the course of the activities of an educational establishment.
  • A broadcast is recorded for educational purposes and the copyright owner is acknowledged.
  • Limited reprographic copying is done for the purposes of education – limited means less than 1 per cent is copied in any quarter.
  • An educational establishment lends copies of material for educational purposes.



Educational establishments should ensure that they have consistently applied policies regarding intellectual property. Audits should be carried out periodically to determine what activities an institution is involved in and whether they actually fall within non-commercial use. If the use is potentially commercial or carries other risks of infringing intellectual property rights, relevant licences and permissions should be sought.

If you need assistance to ensure your copyright policies and procedures provide the necessary protection, Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can help. For more information please contact James Crichton via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.