Copyright Infringement

You can infringe copyright and other Intellectual Property such as Trade Marks by copying, exploiting, re-using or publishing the materials without the permission of the owner.

Unfortunately from time to time copyright infringement can become an issue for school.

 In some cases it becomes a matter of apology and 'taking down' or not using the infringing item. However, this should not be the assumed outcome.  

 UK Copyright Infringement Law. You can infringe copyright and other Intellectual Property such as Trade Marks by copying, exploiting, re-using or publishing the materials without the permission of the owner. While there is a regulatory framework in place and legal precedents to draw on, it isn’t possible to predict in what situations an issue of infringement may be raised or how it will be pursued - it could be either a civil or a criminal matter.

 It is worth considering that some copyright owners and digital publishers are using an increasing range and sophistication of technical means to monitor the use of their materials through the use of metadata, watermarks, fingerprinting and spiders.  In this increasingly technological environment good network management that monitors and controls usage is essential.


Notices of Infringement and a School's Response 

If an individual in a school receives a notification of infringement they should refer it to the senior management team. They should not deal with it themselves or ignore it. If a school receives notification of infringement the initial response from the senior management should provide clear and unambiguous instruction to any teaching, administrative or technical staff in dealing with the notice of infringement. In either case the school should immediately contact the LA or their legal advisers before responding to or taking any action. Depending on the type of school – independent, Academy, ‘free’, etc - it may be appropriate to inform the school’s legal advisers. The process of seeking further advice is critical as the action that a school may take without advice may be inappropriate and increase the alleged infringement rather than mitigate it.

 The policy for dealing with notification of infringements should be included in the schools' management plan and clear guidance about Intellectual Property, Copyright and Licence infringement included in the school’s Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP) and e-safety Policy. Management Plan, AUP and e-Safety Policy should cover working and access to resources out-of school, through VLE, home access, school log-ins – both individual and shared - and open access. Management Plan, AUP and e-Safety Policy statements should cover teachers and all the rest of the school workforce, pupils, visiting or temporary professionals, volunteer helpers, parents, guardians and family, etc.

 'Notice and Take Down'. Some countries, like the USA, have a legal regulation for Notice and Take Down procedures - in other words, a request to remove the materials that an owner or creator believes to have been used without their permission. In the UK this would be a request, from the owner or their representative, and could provide a simple way forward without getting to a 'copyright infringement' action.

 "Mass Downloading". Mass downloading of copyright materials using applications such as Peer to Peer (P2P) websites can be a basis for an infringement of copyright action by an owner or creator. In the UK measures have been proposed through the Digital Economy Act (DEA) to cut off internet access from people who infringe in this way though it is not yet in operation. In schools effective Network Management should identify such mass up or downloading activity quickly and the school AUP policy brought into action. See the News section for the latest on this issue.

 For more about managing copyright in schools: see Section 3, ‘Managing Copyright and School Policies’ .