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Copyright FAQs

These frequently asked questions and answers have been compiled based on common queries received from Brunel staff and students and will be updated periodically.

More answers to frequently asked questions can also be found under the topic Copyright and Plagiarism in the Library Services knowledge base, LibAnswers

For further information please also see the links on the right hand side or contact Copyright.

May I scan extracts from printed books, journals and magazines to use in Blackboard Learn?

You may do so if one of the following apply:

  • you have obtained permission from the copyright owner - make sure you keep a written record of this permission, attaching where appropriate
  • the material is out of copyright - see the section on the duration of copyright - or
  • the material is licensed for scanning and has been digitised in accordance with the terms of the University's CLA Higher Education Licence.

The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Higher Education Photocopying and Scanning Licence permits the digitisation of up to 5% from the print edition of a book, journal or magazine, provided it is published in the UK, and the publisher has given the CLA permission to license the use of the work. A list of works excluded from scanning under the licence is available on the CLA website.

All material scanned under the licence must be recorded and reported to the Copyright and Digital Resources Officer for reporting to the CLA, and carry the CLA's copyright notice. Unless material is reported to the Copyright and Digital Resources Officer and bears a CLA copyright notice, it is not legally valid. If you are a member of teaching staff and require scanned readings for use in Blackboard Learn, see the Digital Readings Service web page and the Scanning web page for further information on what the licence covers, and detailed procedures.

Remember that the Library subscribes to a very large number of electronic journals and e-books, so the material (or an alternative) may already be available electronically. Visit the Library website for links to the catalogue, electronic journals and databases.

The Library subscribes to lots of useful electronic journals. Can I link to or download articles to use in Blackboard Learn or the intranet?

Electronic journals and databases are subscription resources and are therefore governed by the terms and conditions laid out by the publisher in the contractual agreement. Each resource must be checked individually to determine what acts of copying are permitted. Any breach of contract can result in the suspension or termination of service.

Many e-journals now permit the use of extracts in e-learning environments like Blackboard Learn, either through providing a link, or downloading files. Some may even allow printed extracts to be added to printed course packs. However, not all do, and terms may vary between providers.

When linking to e-journal articles, always check the terms and conditions for a policy on the type and format of links allowed.

Unless you are absolutely sure the journal allows it, you should not download a PDF article from an e-journal and upload it to Blackboard Learn. Some journal publishers like to track usage and therefore include clauses in the licence agreement prohibiting this. Making e-journal content available in a shared electronic environment without permission is a breach of contract as well as copyright infringement, and could result in legal action, the suspension or withdrawal of access to resources and disciplinary procedures.

Can I copy an electronic document from a website and make it available in Blackboard Learn?

Electronic documents and work on the internet are covered by copyright. Copyright owners have the exclusive right to control the dissemination of their work in any shared electronic format so you must obtain permission or hold a licence before you copy them. If access to the document is normally restricted, or contains confidential information, not in the public domain, it is certain that to circulate it any further would not be permitted without permission.

Can I put a document which is 'free to view' on the internet into Blackboard Learn?

Even though work on the internet is publicly available, 'free to view' content is still copyrighted, unless the copyright has expired. Any further copying and sharing, other than for the purposes of non-commercial private study or research (fair dealing), requires explicit consent or a licence.

If the document is 'free to view' on the internet you could provide a link for your students, although it is good practice to ask the copyright owner before you do this and check the website for a copyright notice, terms of use or a policy on linking.

If you provide a link without permission, it is important to only do so if you are not instructing students to systematically copy the material you are linking to. Links provided as supplementary reading or for information to those who may wish to follow up with further private study are unlikely to infringe copyright law.

You should also try to use reputable sites wherever possible, as you could still leave yourself and the institution liable for secondary copyright infringement, if you provide copies of content which has been illegally posted on the internet in the first place. 

How do I find out what a website owner permits?

Finding information is sometimes difficult on websites, as design varies and information may not be in the same place on every site. However, the standard location for a copyright notice or terms of use statement is along the bottom of a website's home page, or along the navigation bar. Alternatively, some may put relevant information in a disclaimer, or on a 'Contact Us' or 'About Us' page.

Some, particularly publisher websites may have a Rights and Permissions page, where you can find contacts and information on how to apply for clearance. Alternatively, contact the Copyright and Digital Resources Officer for further advice.

I found an image on Google I'd like to use in my lecture which I will then post to Blackboard Learn. Am I breaking copyright law if I do so?

Images on the web are covered by copyright law, so you should not copy them for teaching purposes or for Blackboard Learn without permission.

Search engines will simply produce results based on your search criteria, regardless of copyright restrictions, and they are permitted to do so under copyright law. Further use of the images found depends on the permissions set by the copyright owner.

Check the copyright ownership with the owner of the web page, and remember that they may not be authorised to license you for any use if they do not own the copyright themselves. Others may not have used the image legally themselves.

Fortunately, there are many collections of images which may be freely used for educational purposes. The CLA Higher Education Licence also includes some provisions for the use of images in licensed publications, provided they are used in context. 

Can I include TV programmes in Blackboard Learn?

Yes, you can include extracts of TV programmes in Blackboard Learn, provided they meet the terms of Brunel's Educational Recording Agency (ERA) Licence and copyright legislation. This must be validated by Media Services, who have made arrangements to make video content available in Blackboard Learn in line with the ERA licence terms.

Our ERA licence allows the University to record off-air broadcasts from terrestrial TV channels in the UK. The licence allows the use of these broadcasts in Blackboard Learn and in lectures, provided they have been recorded off-air, and are not copied from commercially available videotapes or DVDs. The main terrestrial TV channels such as the BC, ITV, Channel 4 are licensed by the ERA.

The main restriction under this licence is that extracts may only be viewed on campus, and may not be made available to staff or students off site or overseas. Media Services are able to provide technical advice on the best way of making materials available to students without breaking the terms of the licence.

Can I include part of a commercial film in Blackboard Learn?

No, except in very limited circumstances. This is only permitted if you are teaching some aspect of film making or media studies. Section 32 (2) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 states: "Copyright in a sound recording, film or broadcast is not infringed by its being copied by making a film or film sound-track in the course of instruction, or of preparation for instruction, in the making of films or film sound-tracks, provided the copying - (a) is done by a person giving or receiving instruction, and (b) is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement, and provided that the instruction is for a non-commercial purpose."

May I scan articles and photographs from newspapers?

Under the University's Newspaper Licensing Agency Licence, you may copy from paper to paper or from paper to digital format, or e-mail extracts from printed editions of UK national newspapers. This is subject to limits on the amount which can be copied. You are permitted to make copies of one article or up to 1% of an edition.

Photographs are included under the terms of the NLA licence and may be copied along with the article they accompany.

Copying from electronic newspapers is not covered by the Newspaper Licensing Agency licence. You must check the terms and conditions of the electronic database before copying.

What is the duration of copyright?

Copyright does not last forever. Once it has expired you are free to copy the work. Expiry dates vary according to the format of the work.

FormatDuration of copyright
Literary (including computer programs and databases), dramatic, musical or artistic works 70 years after the death of the creator
Sounding recordings 50 years after the work is made, published or performed
Films 70 years after the death of the director, author of screenplay or composer
Broadcasts 50 years after the broadcast was made
Typographical arrangements 25 years after the publication of the edition
Cable programmes 50 years