You or your pupils have done some original work - a poem, a teaching resource, some research, a film, a set of photographs, a game - how does copyright work?


PH n6-4-delta Image Wikipedia TED-43Copyright is automatic in the UK. You don't even have to register or even put a © mark or anything else on the work; as soon as you publish it, it is your copyright. Of course, it has to be original - not someone else's work - AND - it has to be published or 'fixed' - written down, made, recorded, filmed, whatever. You can't have copyright on something you, for instance hum or recite live as that's not 'fixed' or published. Neither can you copyright an idea OR a set of facts - it is the expression of the idea - the song, the cartoon, the poem, the lecture or how you made up and presented the mathematical model - that is copyright. Find out more about these basic facts in Section 1, 'IPR and Copyright'. 


Geometric Model animation 'PH n6-4-delta' by Wikimedia Commons contributor TED-43, Creative Commons BY 3.0 unported - which means we are free to use it, provided we acknowledge the creator, 'Wikipedia TED-43' .


Anyone, of any age has copyright of their original work if it is published, and that includes children and students in schools. Check out the detail in Section 3, Schools and Copyright

For teachers it is likely that the work you create as part of your terms of employment - for example learning resources to support classwork - are probably the copyright of the school or it's legal entity - e.g. the Governors or Local Authority. The photographs you take on a family holiday are your copyright. It's probably not defined by time of day, term/vacation dates, school/home location or even using school/your own equipment - more likely it's about the nature of the work in realtion to your 'job' - the terms of employment. In many cases schools and LA will agree to you using work - for instance publishing a book about 'teaching methods' - provided you give due acknowlegements and take due care with personal or critical references. You may want to think carefully if you engage in research, publishing education resources, creating software or do creative stuff and sometimes bring that work into school. In Higher Education most institutions have clear policies about how research should be dealt with. Check out more detail in Section 3, Schools and Copyright



This is an area where quick answers may not be helpful and you really need to think things through and work carefully as you are entering into the legal dimension of copyright. These notes are for awareness and guidance and are not, and are not intended to be, legal advice.

It is also an area where your school should have a policy in place to support staff, students and the school community in publishing their work and contributing to on-line activity.

Remember, Copyright is automatic and you don't have to do anything or register your work; but it may help if you consider your options and make them clear.

To make the copyright position clear you have several options:

  • Use a standard phrase like '' Copyright. All rights reserved" with your name and the date and , if you wish the © mark. Check this procedure on the UK IP Office website - see side links
  • Write some 'Terms of Use' to make clear that, for instance you may use this material for education but not for commercial use. Check out the Terms and Conditons of well known national museum education materials. But take care - cutting and pasting someone else's text may not be a complete answer for your situation.
  • Use an open licence, such as Creative Commons, which will tell others how you want to share the material. See 'Section 2 - Licences'
  • Put material into the Public Domain. Some work we do could, logically, be put into the public domain from the off.
  • Consult the school's legal advice.

For children's work you should have parent or responsible adult agreement by signed letter to your publication plan - this is an area where copyright meets e-safety.

For teacher's work you should be clear if it is school work (part of your terms of employment) and probably the copyright of the school or if it is your private work before the work is published or even undertaken.

If you are using school services - websites or VLE - managed by a company, using web services, entering on-line copmptetitions or collaborative ventures you should be clear if they are making any stipulations on the school's, the pupil's or an individual's copyright.

You need to be aware that digital media such as cameras increasingly embed information about the user, location, date and copyright in the digital files they produce that may stay with the material you publish. Once again copyright and e-safety meet up.

Think ahead. Work out what you want to happen with the work. Think through how you would respond if you found someone else re-using it without acknowledging you/the school. How would you react if they were using it in a commercial context? Think what might happen in the future. Some things you may wish to consider:

  • you may want to share the work as much as possible
  • you may want other people to take on the 'ideas' and develop them
  • you may want to enable other people to pass the work on
  • you may want your name acknowledged
  • you may want feedback
  • you may want the work shared for education use but not commercial use
  • you may not mind the work being used but you don't want it altered
  • you may want potential re-users to contact you
  • you may want control over what might happen in the future
  • you may not want the website or service hosting your work to have rights to use your work


In the digital age the balancing act is often between maximising exposure and maintaining some control over how others view and use your work. These sort of considerations would form part of your planning and deciding how and where you want to publish the work and how you want to add copyright information. They can also form the basis of discussion with pupils.


At this point please follow the topics through the main Sections on Copyrights and Wrongs for more detailed explanations and examples.