Copyright for Teaching

Lecturer standing on stage with two big screens behind him

You no doubt use a range of materials created by other parties in your lectures, course materials, and study guides. Observing the copyright requirements for educational instruction ensures compliance, maintains academic integrity standards, and sets an example of best practice to students.

The Course Materials section below outlines the range of schemes that permit certain uses of material in the classroom. In loose order of priority based on cost, risk, and convenience, it is recommended to:

  • Create your own materials.
  • Use Open Educational Resources (OERs).
  • Link or embed materials.
  • Rely on an exception (eg performing in class, assessments, disability access). 
  • Rely on a commercial or collecting society licence. 

All third-party materials used in teaching resources should be appropriately attributed as required under moral rights provisions in the Copyright Act. It's common practice to observe moral rights even if an item is in the public domain.

Further resources: 

Copyright Induction Course All staff should complete this course as part of the induction process.
Library Bites - Copyright Confident webinar: tips and tricks for teaching Copyright considerations for preparing teaching materials.
  • Copyright ownership

  • Course readings

    The Procedures for Using Third Party Materials for Educational Purposes requires that third party copyright material such as textbooks, journal articles, films, and music must only be provided to students via Course Readings. This is to ensure that copying limits, notices, and reporting requirements are met. The Library can assist with locating required materials.

    Third party materials should only be distributed directly to students if it’s a teaching aid or part of an assessment or exam and even then, only if its permitted under any applicable licence terms for that material.

  • Course materials

    Incorporating resources for use in teaching materials such as presentations, worksheets and handouts should rely on at least one of the following schemes.

    Create your own materials

    Using your own teaching materials limits the likelihood of copyright infringement, although there may be circumstances where third party rights still need to be considered.

    The rights to material produced under previous employment may still be retained by that employer, for instance, and would require permission for re-use. Material containing elements created by a co-author, publisher, performer, interviewee or some other third party may similarly require clearance.  

    Open Educational Resources (OERs)

    OERs consist of materials that are in the public domain or have been released under a Creative Commons or other open licence that permits some degree of use without purchase or permission. OER materials include textbooks, journals, courseware, software, datasets, images, music and video, or any item freely distributed for teachers to copy and adapt.

    The Copyright Compliance Policy prioritises the use of OERs for University activities wherever possible.

    See the OER How Do I guide for information on how to find OERs by discipline and format.

    Copyright durations can be broadly summarised as follows, however there are numerous exceptions depending on the type of material and other factors, such as the publication date.

    ▪ For works: life of the author + 70 years.
    ▪ For subject matter other than works: date made + 70 years.
    ▪ For government material: date made + 50 years.

    In 2004 the Australia-US free trade agreement introduced transition measures to expire the copyright in certain items when the copyright terms were extended from 50 to 70 years. As a result, copyright in Australia has expired for:

    ▪ Most literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works if the author died before 1955.
    ▪ Photographs and sound recordings made before 1955.

    See the Copyright Durations page for specific durations by material type.

    Linking or embedding

    Linking or embedding online content means the source website is serving up the material rather than having to reproduce it locally. Embedding should only be employed if the third party site expressly permits it. YouTube, for example, provides specific HTML embed code to enable videos to be served elsewhere. Only legitimate material should be linked or embedded.

    Performing material in class

    The Copyright Act provides an exception that permits the performance or communication of material in the course of educational instruction, so long as it is not conducted for profit. It includes playing sound recordings or films, reading out literary works, and performing a play or musical work.

    However, the exception does not extend to copying the work, so performances of copyright material should be excluded from the lecture recording by pausing the recording unless permitted under a licence or some other scheme, such as the Screenrights licence for broadcast material. 

    See the Commercial Licences section below for information on using commercial streaming services such as Spotify or Netflix.  

    Assessment materials

    The examination exception in the Copyright Act permits unlimited copying and communication of any type of material if it is used as part of an exam or assessment question or answer. It excludes practice tests that are not formally assessed. 

    Note that licence terms may override legislated rights and exceptions for some materials. 

    Disability access

    This exception relies on several fairness factors. To meet these criteria, any copying and communicating of material for disability access purposes should ensure that the required format is not readily available commercially, access to the converted material is restricted, and only the necessary amount is copied.  


    If the intended use of a work doesn’t fall within one of the above schemes, consider obtaining permission. Copyright © notices should identify the rights holder, but if its not clear its usually best to contact the publisher or author.

    For texts, submit requests through CCC Marketplace if possible, or look for a ‘permission and clearances’ link or similar on online articles.

    Consider the following wording for informal requests:

    Can you kindly grant permission to the University of Adelaide for a worldwide, perpetual, non-exclusive licence to copy and communicate the following item for the purpose of including it in teaching and learning materials.

    Commercial licences

    The Library has licences in place with over 120 vendors to provide staff and students with resources such as journals, data, ebooks, news, guides, audio and video recordings.

    While there are distinct licence terms for each resource, they typically permit staff to access (view), and possibly copy (download) or communicate (share) materials for educational purposes.

    General terms for a particular vendor can usually be found at the bottom of their webpage under ‘Copyright’ or ‘Terms and Conditions’ after clicking through from Library Search results or from the Library Database list. However, these may differ from the actual licence agreement with the University. In addition, a specific item may have a Creative Commons or other licence attached to it that may override the licence agreement terms.

    For commercial streaming services such as Spotify or Netflix, their terms of use generally prohibit public screenings and preclude other legislated rights such as copyright exceptions and statutory licence agreements. Netflix does offer a limited documentary collection for educational screenings, however.

    Collecting society licences

    The University has agreements in place with several copyright collecting societies who manage a vast catalogue of works on behalf of rightsholders.

    The general ‘rule-of-thumb’ limits under these licences are summarised below. Specific limits for each material type are detailed on the Copyright Collecting Society Licences page.

    Note that ‘educational’ purposes exclude activities that don’t support instruction. Images in lecture presentations or handouts that are merely decorative, for example, can't rely on the Copyright Agency licence.  

    Collecting society Materials Permitted purposes General limits
    Copyright Agency Text, images and notated music Educational
    • Reproduce or communicate a ‘reasonable portion’, generally considered as 10% or 1 chapter or article for text. 

    • No limit for images.  

    • Requires a warning notice

    Screenrights Free-to-air television and radio broadcasts Educational
    • Reproduce or communicate, no limit. Content can be obtained from podcasts if previously broadcast in Australia.  

    • Requires a warning notice.

    APRA-AMCOS, ARIA, PPCA (music license) Musical works and sound recordings


    University events

    Staff workplaces

    The following warning notice should be included when using material under the Copyright Agency or Screenrights licences. The notice is included with Course Readings, Echo360 lecture recordings and presentation templates, but should be manually added to MyUni course information modules as required:

    This material has been copied and communicated under the Statutory Licence pursuant to s113P of the Copyright Act 1968 for the educational purposes of the University of Adelaide. Any further copying or communication of this material by you may be the subject of copyright protection.