The Pupil and IPR

Pupils’ work is their own and they own the copyright on it.

Whether it’s a four year-old’s crayon drawing or an A-level science investigation - it is theirs!  

It has to be original of course - their own expression of an idea - just copying or summarising facts or cutting and pasting encyclopedia-type material doesn't count.

composite photograph

In the UK young people under the age of 18 are not able to enter into a legal contract on their own behalf. So while they may own the copyright they can't 'exploit' it through commercial contracts for themselves.


Use 'Prior Consent Forms'.

Obtain written parental/carer permissions prior to the publication of pupil's work - paintings, poems, films, etc. to minimise risks. Do this before the work is published whether through a website, on a DVD, in a paper publication or by whatever means. In the letter say exactly how the work will be published and who could have access to it once it is published.


Using an online service or an education project that publishes student outcomes? Check the terms and conditions for how they treat copyright before signing up in the same way as you thoroughly check their data-protection and e-safety policies.  Take the same care with on-line competitions.

A service may:

  • leave the copyright with the school and the contributors
  • leave the copyright with the contributors but demand the right to use material for subsequent promotions, etc.
  • require that they take over the copyright as a conditon of use or entry.

The school should be aware and think things through before going ahead and registering or signing up.


Children can use the Creative Commons process - and it's a helpful procedure in understanding some of the issues of creative work, copyright and sharing - but if they are under 18 the licence is 'construed' as a 'naked licence' - i.e. it is NOT a legal 'contract'.

In giving something a CC licence the pupil isn't just 'agreeing' to the licences 'attributions' but is licensing the content - making an offer to others.

Parental/carer permissions can be obtained before publishing sets of school work under a Creative Commons Licence, as in the Our Shorts project where pupil films from Primary and Secondary schools in the East Midlands region were published online by EMBC under a Creative Commons licence, after haiving parental premissions in place, to make clear the conditions under which the films could be 'used'. (EMBC are the East Midlands regional broadband consortium.)


Young people can take out a patent if they are the 'inventor'. In practice this would probably involve parents and perhaps a patent lawyer. However, they would not be able to 'exploit' their invention as this would involve entering into 'contracts' and in the UK minors under the age of 18, can not enter into contracts.



There are resources about copyright for young people - including film, music and invention - in the Student Section of 'Copyrights and Wrongs'

UK IP Office Materials for schools

UK IP Office provides guidance on Copyright and Patents which applies to people of any age on their website. For schools they have competition project about invention, 'Crackin' Ideas',and also publish the 'Think Kit' for pupils in the 14-16 age range. The Think Kit main resource book has introductions to and guidance about Intellectual Property, including Copyright and Patents.

 For the Think Kit resources, case studies and activities (as a series of pdf's) go to UK IP Office Think Kit

 Download the 'Think Kit' - main resource book 'Think Teach' here as a pdf.