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Copyright and licensing in Higher Education

Guidance for copyright and licensing issues

Copyright for teaching

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has produced a guide Exceptions to Copyright: Education and Teaching. This is the key copyright document for all those involved in teaching and learning.

The IPO guidance explains that within education much of the copying is either by means of a special educational licence or under an exception to copyright law that permits certain acts of copying without the permission of the copyright owner. 

The University also buy lots of digital content on licence for specific use within teaching. This includes databases of films, archival footage, sound recordings and educational videos. This saves you the need to copy; you can use the content we have purchased on licence.

University of Northampton Educational Licences: Overview

The University of Northampton holds several educational licences that enable us to legally copy and share material for teaching and learning purposes with our students:

  • The CLA Higher Education Licence, which enables our Digitisation Service to obtain digital copies of extracts for inclusion on online reading lists linked from within NILE. The licence also permits our staff and students make photocopies within specified limits
  • Educational Recording Agency (ERA) Licence, which enables tutors to create a repository of off-air broadcasts delivered via the Box of Broadcasts service

  • Newspaper Licencing Agency (NLA) Education Establishment Licence, which enables University staff to copy and reuse print and digital news content.

Exceptions to copyright and fair dealing: Overview

There are some specific situations, known as copyright exceptions, that allow limited use of copyright works without seeking the permission of the copyright owner.  These exceptions are listed below, along with information about "fair dealing" (how much you can reasonably use), followed by links to the Intellectual Property Office website for further information.

The Intellectual Property Office has also produced a guide Exceptions to Copyright: Education and Teaching. Key things to note within this guide are that the law now allows copying of works in any medium as long as the following conditions apply: 

1. the work must be used solely to illustrate a point

2. the use of the work must not be for commercial purposes

3. the use must be fair dealing

4. it must be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement

This means minor uses, such as displaying a few lines of poetry on an interactive whiteboard, are permitted, but uses which would undermine sales of teaching materials still need a licence.

Detailed information about these Exceptions to copyright can be found on the Intellectual Property Office website.

© Crown Copyright.

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

Who owns the copyright of material produced as part of my employment?

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. 

For more information on the ownership of copyright works, see the specific IPO Ownership of Copyright Works web pages.

Digital and multimedia resources we buy on licence for use within teaching and research

Each year, the Library and Learning Services licenses hundreds of databases full of content for you to use within teaching and learning. As well as e-books and e-journals, these include databases of films, sound recordings, archival footage and specially made educational videos on subject specific topics.  You can use this content in combination with our Digitisation service (operated under the HE CLA licence), together with open access and Creative Commons resources, and the Copyright exceptions and fair dealing.

You can find a full list of the resources we license on our A-Z of Journals and Databases, but highlights include:

Checklist: copyright and the Virtual Learning Environment (Blackboard)

When incorporating other people's work into your teaching and for use within Blackboard, unless it is out of copyright, it will need to be either under:

  • an existing licence that permits the use
  • a copyright exception and fair dealing
  • or by getting permission (requesting the licence to use it)

Here's a checklist to help with this process:

  1. Does the University already pay for this content on licence via one of their databases?  If so, you can use it on your online reading list and within NILE. See A-Z of Journals and Databases
  2. Is the content already covered by our Education Recording Agency Licence and available on Box of Broadcasts (BoB)? If so, you can link to it via your online reading list and within NILE.
  3. Is the content already available to use because it is under a Creative Commons licence, is it in the public domain or it is no rights reserved (CC0). Always check the exact licence terms of the work and provide a proper attribution.
  4. Is the content a text extract that could be digitised under our CLA Higher Education licence? Contact the Digitisation Service to find out.
  5. Is the content something core that we should buy for students?  Contact your Academic Librarian or the Reading List Team to find out.
  6. Would the use be covered by one of the copyright exceptions and within fair dealing?  If you're confused about what constitutes fair dealing, the Intellectual Property Officer provides advice on factors that have been identified by the courts in determining fair dealing. 
  7. If none of the above apply, you will need to seek permission from the copyright owner. This isn't always as painful as it sounds!


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