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Copyright and licensing in Higher Education

Guidance for copyright and licensing issues

Copyright Overview

The information on the University of Northampton copyright pages focuses on those elements of copyright and licensing most relevant to Higher Education, and has been adapted or reproduced from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) under the Open Government Licence v.3.0

What is copyright?

Copyright protects the following types of work from being used without the copyright owner's permission:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustration and photography

  • original non-literary written work, such as software, web content and databases

  • sound and music recordings

  • film and television recordings

  • broadcasts

  • the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works

Copyright prevents people from doing the following without the owner's permission:

  • copying a work

  • distributing copies of it, whether free of charge or for sale

  • renting or lending copies of a work

  • performing, showing or playing a work in public

  • making an adaptation of a work

  • putting it on the internet

Copyright protection is automatic upon creation. The copyright owner does not have to apply or pay a fee, nor does a piece of work have to be accompanied by the copyright symbol (©) to be protected. There isn’t a register of copyright works in the UK.

© Crown Copyright.

IPO Copyright information is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0. open government licence logo

When can I make copies of someone else's work?

Unless the work is out of copyright, you can only copy someone else's work:

  • by means of a special educational licence.  The University of Northampton holds special education licences that enable the library, tutors and students to copy under specific circumstances.

  • under an exception in copyright law that permits certain acts of copying without the permission of the copyright owner. Many of these exceptions are particularly beneficial to the type of work undertaken by students and academics.

  • with the permission of the copyright owner. This may be via direct permission or via a licence type, such as the UK Open Government LicenceCreative Commons, or the US Government Open License.

Even if a work is out of copyright, proper credit should always be given to the creator through referencing or an attribution.

Who owns the copyright?

In general, the author or creator of the work owns the copyright. For example, in the context of Higher Education, students own their own copyright.

However, if work is created by an employee in the course of their employment, the copyright is owned by their employer. This means the University of Northampton owns the copyright of material created by staff as part of their employment. This includes both teaching and research. 

There is specific information on ownership of copyright in the IPO Ownership of Copyright Works.  

What is takedown procedure and notice?

Content that is provided online is often accompanied by a takedown procedure or policy.  The takedown procedure is provided by the content host  to give clear information to copyright holders about who they should contact if they believe their copyright has been infringed, and what process the host will follow regarding removal of the content.  A takedown procedure enables the copyright holder to give notice if they believe their copyright has been infringed. 

You can see different examples of take down procedures on the University's Skills Hub and NECTAR, and also on The British Library website.  

A takedown procedure should NOT be used in lieu of properly considering if permission is required or if the material falls within fair dealing, a copyright exception, an HE licence,  or an open licence.

Who will be held responsible for copyright or intellectual property infringement?

Who takes responsibility for an act of copyright or intellectual property infringement depends upon the context, but if you use copyrighted content without permission and that cannot be deemed fair dealing, use under an HE licence or covered by a copyright exception, you may be held directly and personally liable. 


This information is for general guidance and background information only and does not constitute legal advice. The University of Northampton does not accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage incurred as a result of relying on information contained on this website. 


Much of this content has been adapted and reproduced from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) under the Open Government Licence v.3.0. Where content has been derived in this manner, it has been attributed as follows:

© Crown Copyright.

IPO Copyright information is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0. open government licence logo