Online Copyright Issues

Technology has transformed the way we access, use and create copyright material.

It is now easier than ever to share copyright material online and it is a common expectation that students will be able to access the majority of teaching material online, including lecture recordings, digitised readings and videos. It is important that staff and students of the University are aware of copyright issues and access and share material appropriately.

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  • Using material from websites

    Many people believe that material on websites are in the public domain and free for anyone to use, e.g. copy, download or print. This is INCORRECT. Unless the copyright has expired or the copyright owner has actively dedicated it to the public domain then you need to assume that the material is copyright and all rights are likely to be reserved.

    If you want to use the material in a way that will invoke one of the exclusive rights then you will need to be granted permission from the copyright owner or be able to rely on an exception in the Copyright Act. Beware: the owner of the website may not necessarily be the owner of copyright in all materials on the website – documents, images and music on websites are often taken from other sources.

    You should first check if there are any terms and conditions governing the use of material (often linked to at the bottom of websites). Many websites do permit copying but limited to personal use, educational purposes and/or non-commercial purposes. If material on the website is attributed to a third party, or you reasonably believe to be owned by a third party, then you should obtain permission from that party as the website owner may not be authorised to grant permission on their behalf.

    Many copyright owners are choosing to release their material online under the terms of an open licence. An open licence automatically grants users permission to use material in certain ways without needing to ask. It is important to note that the material is still copyright and infringement will occur if the terms of the licence are not followed, e.g. if the creator of the material is not attributed. Creative Commons is the most common type of open licence. You can search specifically for material with a Creative Commons licence on a number of platforms and search engines. The Library also has a guide to help you find free-to-use resources.

    If no general permission has been granted, e.g. through the website terms and conditions or through the application of an open licence, you might be able to use the material in reliance of an exception. If you wish to use the material for teaching purposes at the University visit the Educational Statutory Licence page. If you wish to use material for your own purposes you may be able to rely on a Fair dealing exception. Please note that any express website terms may override these exceptions.

  • Linking and embedding

    Providing a link to a third party website does not invoke any of the exclusive copyright rights. It is often easiest to provide a link to material rather than seek permission or rely on an exception to copy the material. You may provide links as long as the website’s express terms and conditions do not prohibit it.

    You should always link to a page which is clearly identifiable as being a part of the third party’s website. Linking directly to pages or documents which are not clearly identifiable as the third party (also called ‘deep linking’) can result in the following problems:

    • the material may be presented out of its proper context.
    • users may not realise they are accessing a third party's website or material.
    • the material may not contain the relevant copyright warnings or conditions that would be contained in the home page.
    • there is a risk of resulting claims that you are engaging in misleading conduct or are passing off third party material as your own.

    You should never link to websites that contain material which you know or have a reasonable belief is in breach of copyright (e.g. websites providing illegal downloads; YouTube clips of commercial films or broadcasts). If you do so, the University may be liable for authorising copyright infringement.

    Some websites allow material to be embedded into another webpage by providing an embed code. Embedded material is framed in the new page and can be viewed without visiting the original hosting site.  Embedding does not invoke any of the copyright rights although the problems outlined above for linking can also apply. For this reason it is important that you only embed material if this option is explicitly offered and that you do not embed content which is infringing or likely to be. Example of sites which include an embed option include YouTube and Flickr.

  • Downloading/file sharing music and video

    Most music recordings or movies available for free on websites, or by file-sharing software (e.g. BitTorrent, LimeWire) are not made available with the copyright owners’ consent and are illegal copies. When you download an illegal file, you too are making a copy in breach of copyright. Similarly, if you file share or make copyrighted music recordings or films available for download, you will be in breach of copyright.

    Furthermore, using University equipment to download or distribute illegal copies is a breach of the University’s IT Acceptable Use and Security Policy.

  • Making material available online

    It is very important to abide by copyright laws when making material available online. If these material are placed on sites with no access restrictions, they can be viewed by the world at large and any copyright infringement can be easily detected. Please be particularly careful with the following types of materials:

    Teaching material
    The University’s Educational Statutory Licence and Music Licence permit certain material to be made available online for teaching purposes, provided that access is limited to students / staff of the relevant course. Digitised readings must only be made available online through Course Readings via MyUni. For full details visit the Educational Statutory licence page.

    Student works
    Copyright in a work created by a student (or group of students) will belong to that student (or group of students) unless they have assigned their rights in writing. Therefore, if a School wishes to place student works online, written permission must first be obtained from the relevant students and retained on file.

    The School must also check if the student work contains any third-party material (e.g. a student video may contain a music soundtrack). The student may have been entitled to include such third-party material under the Fair Dealing for Research or Study exception, however that exception will not extend to making the material available online. If any third party material is included, that material must be edited out or permission obtained from that third party before the student work can be placed online.

  • Infringing material on University website

    If you receive any notice alleging that material on a University website is infringing copyright, or if you come across any material on a University website that you reasonably believe is in breach of copyright, please follow the Take Down Notice procedures.

  • University material on other websites

    If you come across any University-developed material on external websites which you reasonably believe should not be there or has not been properly attributed, please contact the Copyright Coordinator.