About Copyright

Copyright is part of a wider set of 'rights' called 'Intellectual Property Rights', or 'IPR' for short - or simply 'IP'.


Artificial Arm, 1865. US Patent Office. Flickr CommonsCopyright is part of a wider set of 'rights' called Intellectual Property (IP or IPR) which includes Patents and Design Rights. Copyright also relates to other focuses of our attention in schools: e-safety, children's images, quality of information, e-citizenship and it is an important issue in many subjects such as Sciences, Arts, ICT, Technology and Enterprise and how they are used in the world outside school.

The Image was drawn in 1865 and is from the US Patent Office and made available with a 'no known restrictions' statement through Flickr Commons. Patents are a way of allowing an inventor to benefit from their work while also ensuring that knowledge is shared through the community.

In 'Copy Rights and Wrongs' to make things 'easier' we often use the single term 'copyright' in a very general sense to cover all the different aspects of IP and licences.


Copyright exists to bring benefit to society by encouraging the development of knowledge and benefit to the creator by giving them opportunity to 'exploit' their work. It's a two-way street.


Copyright applies to all types of media - books of course where it all began - but also to films, news, music, audio, games, designs, newspapers, archives, libraries, web-stuff and mobile-stuff. Digital isn't different.


We usually think about copyright from a 'consumer' point of view - we use other people's copyright materials - but with digital technology we are increasingly keeping four very different balls in the air: user; re-user; publisher or distributer; and creator of new 'stuff' as well. In school we are very often all four at once!

Four Ball Juggler: animation Brad Breattie; PD; Wikipedia Commons.The Four Ball Juggler animation was made by Brad Beattie, which he kindly put into the Public Domain and made available for us to re-use through Wikipedia Commons. Not only can we see and appreciate his animation but it is made clear how we can use and re-use it. And we might learn to juggle as well! Thank you Brad!

USING: We'll start with copyright from the 'user' experience - searching the web and using e-learning resources to study things, prepare coursework and presentations for a class; what copyright calls 'personal study'. Copyright and the User Experience

RE-USING: Next 'ball' up is what you have to consider if you want to re-use some materials you have found on the net in, for instance a power-point or a IWB presentation. Re-using Digital Materials

PUBLISHING: The third 'ball' is what you have to consider if you are putting materials you've made somewhere where other people can use them - in effect publishing and distributing them through, for instance: VLE; website; collaborative on-line resource; DVD; book; etc. Is there anything extra you need to consider? Publishing and Distributing Digital Materials

CREATING: And the fourth 'ball' you have to keep track of - what if you are create your own original materials? Or if you make something as part of a group project or you are in a band? Creating Digital Materials

Sometimes in school all four situations are part of the same project or even lesson - downloading and saving a piece of work with someone else's copyright can sometimes be part of the same process as re-publishing it as part of something you're sharing with other people; so you move seamlessly from being a user, to a re-user, to being a publisher and perhaps a creator as well all in one activity without really noticing.

LICENCES: The fifth step is understanding the different types of licences and how they work in schools; open licences that help people share and develop work; 'blanket licences' for things like photocopying and playing recorded music in schools; and the terms and conditions that are attached to most of the resources, both paid and free, we use. Understanding Licences

CREATIVE COMMONS: 'Open Licences' are such an important part of 'digital age' development in helping to share and distribute educational resources we have given them their own section under the title of the most commonly encountered licence ... Creative Commons



The common principle for all copyright is to respect your own and other people's work. Copy Rights have Copy Responsibilities associated with them. If you publish something think about it's copyright from the off and if you want to share it perhaps you should make clear how you would like it to be used by others. If someone says you can use something but they'd like their name kept with the work, you should oblige. If someone asks you not to use something without asking them first, you should ask.


Sort out good learning and copyright procedures in one go - acknowledge the creator and the publishing source (link) (not the search engine link) for the resources you are using or re-using.

As soon as you move from using stuff for yourself or in 'your' classroom to putting things you or your pupils have made into the public sphere or cyberspace or into a permanent repository (VLE, school network, website) that should set the orange warning light blinking to remind you to think what you are doing from the 'school publisher' or a 'copyright owner's' viewpoint.



Go to IPR and Copyright