Risk management

Managing the risk of infringing copyright


  • There is no general “It’s for education therefore it’s OK” rule
  • The education exceptions are seen as ‘defences’ against infringement and are not ‘rights’.
  • If you haven't made it clear what others can do with your work don't be surprised by their assumptions

Key questions for managing risk:

Do I have permission to download these materials, images, films, music, etc.? User:

 Re-User: Do I have permission to re-use the materials I have found?

 Distributor: Do I have permission to send these materials to other people?

 Creator: Have I made it clear how I expect other people to use my work? Have I cleared the permissions for any third-party materials I have used.

Some things that will increase the risks for a school are:

  • Putting materials into school websites without permissions
  • Making material from education subscription services available to other schools or on the web as that is clearly not within their terms and conditions of use and could demonstrably impact on their commercial operation
  • Re-publishing material on the web from websites that specifically say for ‘education use in school’ or for ‘individual study only’
  • Making third-party material available to multiple users through networks, VLEs, photocopying, DVDs or CDs or any other platform increases the risk of copyright infringement.
  • Using copyright materials in such as way to impact on the owner’s business interests
  • Publishing materials that have been altered or put into a context so that they could be seen as derogatory or untrue
  • Forgetting about  third party rights - whether they are the rights for the images in a presentation or the music on a video
  • Forgetting that permission to copy an image into an allowed format such as school VLE does not necessarily include the permission to re-use the same image again in a range of other platforms such as the school or resource-sharing website or a school brochure.
  • Appearance of ‘malicious’ or ‘upsetting’ references in text, audio, video or images
  • Ignoring DRM (Digital Rights Management) devices or removing watermarks – which are in effect clear ‘trespassers could prosecuted’ notices – and “ripping off” the materials for re-use.
  • Poor network management
  • Not undertaking a risk assessment and a managed approach to IPR and copyrights in their use and publishing of learning resources

Who are you making material available to and where are they receiving it?

Individual use for learning and teaching is covered to some extent by fair dealing, the education exceptions and the blanket education licences. However the risk of infringement increases as you move to storing materials on servers available for others to use, storing over the long-term, making multiple copies and publishing material for others to use.

In schematic terms the risk could be present at any point along this axis:

  1. individual use
  2. class group
  3. the school through its intranet or network,
  4. school community through its VLE
  5. Wide Area Network (WAN) such as an LA network, RBC or national   education network such as Glow or C2Kni.
  6. WWW

While the risk increases exponentially with the move into the public sphere of the WWW it should not be assumed that sharing copyright materials without permissions is simply OK within authenticated environments such as the school intranet or VLE and schools should be careful about what materials are stored on their networks .

An axis of risk

There is a general sense that the further you move into the public sphere in publishing resources the more at risk you may become if you use other people's materials without due permissions. However, it would be more accurate to say that each ‘location’ requires you to ask the risk question again and come up with an answer for each of the situations you are working with.  The axis line runs ...

  • person
  • classroom
  • the school location
  • school network and
  • school VLE
  • other online education services
  • other online services
  • the web and the big wide public web

 It also matters what you are doing; and with what material and to which audience!

Some things that might mitigate the risks for a school are:

  • Using materials for which permissions have been granted
  • Seeking formal permissions where feasible and in particular for materials that will be shared and/or used over a long period of time
  • Providing good and accurate acknowledgements
  • Assigning copyright terms and conditions of use or a licence such as CC for materials they create
  • Providing unambiguous guidance online for users contributing resources and materials to VLE, website projects, etc.
  • Using an agreed disclaimer and a notice and takedown policy
  • Publishing material within authenticated (password protected) environments to limit the distribution and audience
  • Implementing good network management to monitor and control usage
  • Undertaking a risk assessment and a managed approach to IPR and copyrights in the use and publishing of learning resources
  • Having clear guidance within its Management Plan, AUP, e-safety and other  Policies

Risk for creators

Risk isn’t all about infringement of other people’s copyright; it is also about protecting the school’s, pupils’ and teachers’ work.

Risk is increased if:

  • there isn’t a clear understanding of what the school/LA position is in publishing resources and developing websites and VLE
  • resources produced don’t have a clear description of their origin
  • a clear terms of use or open licence are not provided for the user
  • copyright metadata isn’t added to digital assets
  • the school doesn’t keep a record of its published resources.


 Disclaimers are statements that you often see on websites along the lines of “We have tried to obtain permissions for this material etc, etc,  ...” .  Disclaimers should mitigate the situation but aren’t a legal instrument or a failsafe defence.

 As part of a school process of good practice in publishing resources, requiring the workforce to insert a Disclaimer may be a useful tool to remind those creating resources of the need for 'due diligence'

Notice and Takedown

 Notice and Takedown policies are used by websites and online services to provide a procedure for someone to claim misuse of materials by providing their proof of ownership and their contact details in return for a promise from the 'offending' website owner to remove them.

The IPR Toolkit suggest this form of words for a Take Down Notice:

 Inthe event that you are the owner of the copyright in any of the material on this website and do not consent to the use of your material in accordance with the terms of conditions of use of this website, please contact us [INSERT: your contact details here/or a link to contact details] and we will withdraw your material from our website forthwith on receipt of your contact details, written objection and proof of ownership.” 

 Download from source: IPR Toolkit 2.2 IPR Risk Assessments. (IPR Toolkit ref: Page 42 Section 2 'Practical Tools'.)