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Copyright - types of material

This page provides more guidance about some specific types of material that you may wish to use in your teaching, research or study.
Topics include Images, Film and Video Essays.


Artistic works include things like photographs, paintings, diagrams, maps and charts, architectural works and works of artistic craftsmanship, and they all qualify for copyright protection. The question is, can you copy a photograph, an illustration or a map for the purpose of teaching and learning?

Members of staff can copy images (including book covers) from publications that are covered by the CLA Licence. You can copy a whole-page visual image, or extract a part-page visual image from a page that may also include text and other images (a process often referred to a ‘disembedding’). Digital copies that include images have to be reported to the CLA, which means following our procedure for requesting a digitization. However, you can copy a disembedded image without it having to be reported it to the CLA, provided it is covered by the Licence terms. Book covers can also be copies without having to report to the CLA.

If the image is not covered by the CLA Licence then you may be able to rely on the Illustration for Instruction (CDPA 1988 s.32) copyright exception, for which 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; and

4.      it must be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.

Determining what might be considered ‘fair’ is tricky. Copyright restricts the copying of a ‘substantial amount’ of a protected work, but what constitutes substantial is undefined. It is possible that this could be measured by quality (e.g. the resolution of a photograph) rather than quantity.

To avoid having to rely on this copyright exception it is recommended that you use images that are licensed for free use (see Finding Free Content) or try searching one of the image collections available from the Library.

It is worth noting that image creators can be extremely protective of their work and employ tools that trace where their images are being used without permission.


Using film in the classroom

Can you show a film in the classroom? Yes, this is allowed, provided that only the students and the teacher view the film and it is for the purpose of instruction. Here we rely on section 34 of the CDPA which states that the showing of a film before an audience at an educational establishment for the purpose of instruction is not classed as a public performance and therefore does not infringe copyright.

Using film during online teaching

Where do you stand if you want to play the film online? This was a likely scenario during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, for example. For a thorough evaluation of this topic see Hudson, E. 2020. Copyright Guidance for Using Films in Online Teaching During the COVID-19 Pandemic, from which much of the following advice is taken.

Although playing a film online is not considered a public performance, it may involve other rights such as reproduction or communication to the public. Section 34 does not cover these rights,therefore your options are:

Using authorised content 

Staff are advised, whenever possible, to use one of the collections to which we subscribe, such as BoB or Kanopy. Be aware that if you link to content, such as through YouTube, you may be accessing unauthorised material and therefore risk infringing copyright.

Using the section 32 copyright exception

Hudson (2020) has suggested that HEIs might be able to rely on the illustration for instruction copyright exception (see above) when showing entire feature films online. One approach she recommends is to "recreate as closely as possible the circumstances that exist for in-person screenings that are covered by section 34. This means that the HEI needs to ensure that these films are accessible only to its students and only for teaching purposes". Following Hudson's advice, the following practice is recommended:

Video Essays

 Learning on Screen has produced an Introductory Guide to Video Essays that incorporates a section on Copyright Considerations.