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Copying from websites

Copying web materials

Text, images, databases and other information on the web are covered by copyright law even where they are freely available to the public.

For materials on the web in general, it may be permissible to print a copy for your own private study and research under fair dealing provisions in copyright law, provided it is non-commercial. You must make your own informed decision on whether your copying is fair. It would be illegal to do the following without permission from the copyright owner:

  • make multiple copies for students
  • cut and paste text or images on the Internet and put them into your e-learning module, PowerPoint presentations or on your website.

Unfortunately there is no licensing scheme covering web materials for teaching purposes within higher education institutions. With subscription websites, you must check the terms and conditions of use prior to copying, as these are governed by contractual agreements for details on what copying is permitted.

The Intellectual Property Office issued a Copyright Notice on digital images, photographs and the internet in March 2014 which is useful for bloggers and other social media users, as well anyone who uses or creates website content. 

Copying your own published work to websites

Any material which you write or images which you create and put on the web are protected under UK copyright law. However, do not assume that you may put articles or books you have written on the web.

Explicit permission is required in writing under UK copyright law before placing any copyright material in a networked electronic environment including the internet, intranet, or e-learning environment.

First, check whether you own the copyright of all the material including any images and the typographical arrangement. If in doubt, check with the publisher of the journal or book. If you are certain you are cleared to publish the material online, you must then check that the format you wish to make it available in is permitted by the publisher, e.g. some publishers may object to the use of a publisher PDF article on a personal website or e-learning module, but may permit use of the author's own version in HTML format. The typographical layout of a work may also be copyright protected.

You can search for and view a summary of the copyright policies and permissions of many publishers online on the SHERPA-RoMEO website. Please note that these policies may not apply to all cases, for instance where you have negotiated a non-standard contract. Alternatively, you may contact your publisher directly to request permission.