Copyright tips for teaching during COVID-19

Information for teaching staff about preparing learning materials for remote teaching.

Access Library support

You can stay on the right side of copyright and licensing law by continuing to use the services and content available via the library.

The Library’s Digitisation Service continues to provide digitisation for book chapters, extracts and journal articles. All digitisations are digitised under the terms of the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Higher Education Licence and we can advise on copyright issues associated with digitisation. Steps are taken to ensure that all digitisations are as accessible as possible within the terms of the CLA licence, this includes using a high-quality scanner to produce clear and accurate scans.

In addition to existing databases and e-journals publishers have granted access to additional digital content for a limited period in recognition of the challenges that COVID-19 presents.

Now could be the time to consider the use of open textbooks. Free at point of use textbooks of equivalent quality can be sourced through a variety of open-access platforms. They can make a real saving for students with current textbook spending of up to £400 per year.

You can find out more about the benefits of open access and find links to a range of open-access resources.

Don’t forget online training videos that can support your students particularly in improving skills with software they will need for their courses and their future career. LinkedIn Learning can support your students with a range of content particularly focused on the software, design and business skills they will need for their courses and their future career.

Your Subject Librarian can provide you with specialist support and advice on resources that meet your subject requirements.

You may also find the information about IP and research on the staff intranet useful.

Link, don't copy

You can link directly to e-journal articles, e-books and websites. By doing this you generally will avoid copying and copyright issues.

You do need to check if a website prohibits linking for educational use in their terms of use so always check these, they can be found at the bottom of the web page. If you have any difficulty, speak with your Subject Librarian.

You can add items to list directly from any webpage this intranet guide explains how and there is a brief video guide to support you.

Be secure

Be inventive about how you deliver teaching, but make sure you are reaching only the right audience eg your students and not everyone on the web. Access to library resources is restricted to UWE Bristol staff and students only. If you use them in your teaching materials make sure they are hosted in the secure VLE environment.

Using copyrighted work

Under UK law you may use copyrighted work to illustrate a teaching point. It is advisable to use small amounts, such as a paragraph or a single image.

To avoid conflict with rights holders, always consider the financial impact of your actions. If what you intend to do will significantly damage sales, then it is unlikely to be viewed as fair under UK law.

All extracts copied under this exception must be fully acknowledged and the amount limited only to the amount needed to illustrate the point.

Text and images are separate copyrighted works. Remember, when you copy an image that you are copying the whole image, not part of a page.

The copyright for teaching pages on the library website provide a fuller list and explanation of copyright exemptions.

Seeking permission

Publishers and other rights holders have temporarily extended access and permissions during the COVID-19 outbreak, but the law and contracts have not changed so you should continue to show due diligence.

Library Services can often help, by purchasing the electronic version of a textbook or a digitised book chapter under UWE Bristol’s CLA Higher Education Licence.

You can try contacting the rights holder to ask permission for your intended use. Email them explaining your intended use and highlighting the benefits for them by giving permission. Some rights holders may ask for recompense for their work, but others may be happy for it to be used for free with a suitable acknowledgement.

If you are granted permission to use rights holders works you should keep the email or letter that confirms this and the terms of use.

See our guidance below on acknowledging other people’s content for more detail.


The illustration for instruction exemptions allows you to use images to illustrate a teaching point. It does not allow use of images to make slides more visually appealing.

Using Homer Simpson to highlight safety in Nuclear Power stations could have an educational point however adding it as a way of injecting humour into your slide deck is not permitted.

There are large amounts of copyright free images available although they are not always easy to identify. It is easier to search collections that you know are licensed for easy reuse such as images with Creative Commons Licenses or that permit educational reuse.

  • Image Resources – Library resource with links to image resources across the range of UWE subject areas
  • Creative Commons Search - searches Google, Flickr and Pixabay for CC licensed images
  • Freeimages - search free images, avoid Getty iStock
  • Flickr - search, then use advanced filters to see only Creative Commons images.
  • Pexels - Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licensed images
  • Unsplash – Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licensed images.

As you are ultimately responsible for your use of images, one final check you may want to carry out is a reverse image search via Tineye. This will allow you to check to ensure the person who put an image on one of the above sites was the person who was permitted to do so.

The FET Learning Innovation Unit website includes articles on using third party content and using copyright free images.

TV, Radio and Music

The ERA licence also permits UWE Bristol students and staff in the UK to access and download content from on-demand services such as the BBC iPlayer, 4-on-Demand, ITV Player, Demand 5, and Clic (S4C) for educational purposes. Linking to these services from within Blackboard is permitted, but due to the short-term availability of many of the recordings, Box of Broadcasts (BoB) may offer a better solution.

In lectures it is best practice to pause the lecture recording providing a link to your students to watch.

If you use iTunes, YouTube or Vimeo material the copyright resides with the creator of the video so again it is best practice to exclude this content from your lecture recordings providing a link to the material.

The FET Learning Innovation Unit have a collection of YouTube-related content including Panopto recordings – The safe and effective way to include YouTube content.

All of these resources can be added to and accessed from course reading lists ensuring the best access for your students. View our full guidance for staff on using on the staff intranet.

Commercially bought CDs and other recordings can be used but should not be included in a lecture recording. Streamed audio from services such as the BBC iPlayer Radio service may be used in class and included in recorded lectures. BoB provides access to this content for a longer period than standard services.

Acknowledging other people's content

Online courses are often a mix of tutor-created content and pre-existing content copied from books, journals, and websites. You must always acknowledge this in your course materials.

It is best practice to cite and reference quoted text and copied images.

There are less formal approaches to acknowledgement. For example, Creative Commons recommend title, author, source and licence, with source and licence linked to the source and licence text on the website. e.g. ‘"Clouds" by Chris.L.Dodds is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0'. The CC search supplies pre-formatted acknowledgements, making it as quick as ‘copy and paste’.

You should also acknowledge embedded video, TV and film clips.

Set expectations

Even if you place all your teaching materials in Blackboard you cannot stop students sending copies to friends or posting them online. You can make your and UWE’s position clear by adding a statement like the one below to your title slide.

© [year] University of the West of England. All rights reserved. This presentation has been added to Blackboard to support your studies.

You may print and/or download a single copy for your personal, educational use. Further redistribution of teaching materials, including making copies available on the internet, is not permitted.

Contact the library if you have a problem

If you have any problems reach out to the library teams who can support you with your needs.

The Ask a Librarian, with 24/7 live chat live chat service is available 24/7. Depending on the question you have you may be referred to your Subject Librarians.

You may wish to contact your Subject Librarians directly.

The Digitisation Service Guide contains full detail on the Digitisation Service, including contact details.

If you have specific copyright questions you can visit the complying with copyright law webpages and contact for further advice.

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