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Electronic Information & Internet Resources

Copyright law protects material found online to the same extent as it protects print and hard copy resources. With the copy and paste function making copying from the Web seamless, it is often very easy to forget that the item that is being copied belongs to someone else and that, unless a copyright exception applies, your copying might infringe their copyright. Uploading and putting information on to the Internet is a form of publishing, which also requires the permission of the rights owner. Internet resources protected by copyright are wide-ranging, from text in blogs through to databases and their content. Copyright not only depends on the type of material you copy but also where you copy it from, as some resources are governed by separate licences. Subscription-based (or password protected) resources are covered separately, so if you want to copy from one of these resources please go to Subscription-based and licensed electronic resources.


Wherever it is on the Internet, for example in a blog, wiki, email, on a web page, news site, and so on, text belongs to the person or organisation whose page or blog post it is. If you want to copy text from the Internet (by copying & pasting, or printing) to include in your teaching materials for distribution to your students, make sure you ask the following questions:

1. Is there a copyright statement? There is usually a clickable link at the bottom of the screen which will either say 'copyright' or 'terms and conditions' or 'terms of use'. This will tell you what you are permitted to do with the content.

2. Is it made available under a licence? Some licence agreements (such as for Wikipedia) allow you to copy the content as long as you reference it correctly. Creative Commons licences tend to work this way.

3. Did the University or I have to pay to access it? If yes, see Subscription-based and licensed electronic resources.

4. Do I think it might be an illegal copy (for example, free material on the Internet that is still in copyright, such as works by Sylvia Plath or TS Eliot)? If so, don't copy it or link to it as this could have serious consequences for both you and the University.

If you are in any doubt about whether you can use text from the Internet in your teaching materials, you can either link directly to that page (although some commercial websites do not permit this type of ‘deep-linking’, so you should always check the terms and conditions); link directly to the homepage of the site with instructions to navigate to the relevant section; or contact the Copyright & Compliance Officer for advice.

Short excerpts of published text may be reproduced in your materials for the purposes of quotation, as long as you use no more than is necessary for your specific purpose and you include sufficient accompanying acknowledgement. Note that this is a fair dealing exception within copyright law, which is context-specific and always involves a qualitative judgement: never use more than a fair-minded and honest person would use, unless you have received permission to do so.


Never assume that just because an image can be accessed online it is free to copy or use. It is prudent to be cautious when considering copying images from the Internet because image rights holders can be particularly protective of their works. Don't just right click on an image and save it - most legitimate image sites will have a download or share function which will allow you to download the image. Avoid copying logos without permission, as they will likely be covered by other forms of Intellectual Property protection (such as trade mark law).

Some images are made available under open licences such as the Creative Commons Attribution licence, while others may be marked ‘all rights reserved’ or contain watermarks to deter unauthorised copying and should never be used without permission. Remember that copyright protection is automatic, so a lack of a watermark or copyright statement is not an invitation to copy. The use of high quality, high resolution images will almost always require payment of a fee (stock photos from Getty Images, for example) and you should never attempt to remove or crop out a watermark.

To search for images (and other material) made available under a Creative Commons licence permitting free reuse, visit the Creative Commons search portal.

Video / Film

Video-hosting sites such as YouTube generally have terms and conditions preventing download and re-upload of video content but permit linking or embedding (for streaming) within presentation slides or a Blackboard area. Do not link to anything that you think is infringing content, for example commercial films, as doing so could have serious consequences for both you and the University. Content uploaded by third parties without permission might also be monetised or taken offline at any time, without warning, so links to infringing content are also more likely to be unstable or contain intrusive advertisements. If in doubt, ask or check with the Copyright & Compliance Officer.

If you are making your own films and videos to upload to the web, please see Publishing AV material to the Web. Much of this advice also applies if you are creating a film for any other purpose.

For the use of film and video from sources other than video-streaming websites, see TV, Film, Videos and DVDs

On Demand Services

Content accessible via on-Demand services such as the BBC iPlayer can be viewed in class for educational purposes, in teaching spaces on University premises in the UK (or at other locations covered by a television licence). You may not download programmes or record from the online services as they are not broadcasts and are therefore not covered by the University's ERA licence.

Things to do now

Making a film or audio production? Go to Publishing AV material to the Web