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Copyright : a practical guide

Lectures and handouts

Whether you are a teacher or a student, you can reproduce an extract from a copyright work for the purposes of "giving or receiving instruction", with full attribution.  This could form part of an assignment, a class handout, a lecture presentation or a MyDundee learning activity.  

'Instruction' can take place anywhere, with any audience, providing there's no direct charge to participate. 

Your use must be defensible as "fair dealing", i.e:

  • relevant to the topic under discussion
  • fully credited
  • a modest amount (treat 'max. 10%' as a working guideline)
  • for a limited audience (e.g. in a lecture theatre, or restricted to a single module cohort on MyDundee)

  • for a limited time (e.g. no further access once the module is completed)
  • with no impact on the rights-holder's opportunity to make money from the original.

Be particularly careful when including third-party images in your teaching materials: even if the original figure is embedded in a text, it may be a copyright work in its own right (check the credits).  It can be difficult to defend your copying as 'fair' when you reproduce an image in its entirety.

See the Using Images tab for recommended sources of copyright-cleared images to illustrate teaching materials.

Making copies of scholarly publications for students to read independently may be interpreted differently in law - refer to the Course Reading tab for more information.

Lecture capture

In addition to classroom use, copyright material which is distributed in a recorded lecture may be defensible as 'fair dealing', providing access is restricted to students registered on the module concerned, for a limited time.

If you intend to email a recorded lecture to students, or make it available to the general public, you should consider editing out any material which is not your own, unless you have a licence to re-use it (such as CC-BY).

UK higher education IT specialists JISC have produced a guide to Recording Lectures: Legal Considerations (2015).

University of Dundee students viewing a recorded lecture or making a recording independently should be aware that sharing the recording with anyone other than a tutor may breach copyright on two counts:

  • The lecturer or the University owns the copyright to the original content
  • Other people's copyright material which was included in the lecture is only 'fair dealing' when it's restricted to the classroom audience.


  • Redistributing an audio or video recording of the lecturer without their permission could breach their 'moral rights'

  • Sharing a recording of a lecture which includes audience participation could breach classmates' right to privacy.

University of Dundee students may find themselves subject to disciplinary procedures if they don't follow the University's regulations for recording lectures.

Showing films and teaching music

UK copyright law explicitly permits teachers and students to perform a dramatic or musical work, or screen a film, in the context of 'instruction'.  But this doesn't cover inviting a non-University audience, charging for tickets, recording the performance, or uploading a commercially-distributed CD or DVD to MyDundee.

See the Gaining permission tab for information about how to apply for a public screening licence or music licence from the appropriate agency.  Student societies and other extra-curricular activities will also need a licence.

TV broadcasts

To use pre-recorded broadcasts or catch-up TV for teaching purposes, a licence is required.

The University of Dundee holds the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) Licence, which covers most UK free-to-air TV channels and radio stations. Lecturers and tutors can upload their own recordings to the VLE for on-screen viewing in the UK, or take advantage of Box of Broadcasts, a platform for educational establishments to share and re-use recordings:

For channels which are not covered by the ERA Licence, check the broadcasters' terms and conditions to establish whether you can show/record their material for teaching purposes.

Conferences and public lectures

Presenting other people's material without their permission at a conference or public lecture could potentially breach their copyright - the legal exceptions and licences which allow you to use third party material for teaching are unlikely to apply.  

Using photos, graphics or audio/video recordings to illustrate your talk may be difficult to defend as 'Quotation', unless you are intending to critically review that material, and there's no impact on the market for the original.  If you are using material released under a Creative Commons licence, ensure that you stick to the terms.

Be especially careful if your audience has paid for tickets, or your presentation will be recorded for wider distribution.  

Read more about how to Protect your copyright before accepting an invitation to speak at a public event.

If you are the conference organizer, you should ask your speakers' permission before recording the event. Consider also asking speakers to confirm that they have permission to use any third-party material that features in their presentation.