In school you are using copyright materials all the time.

 Reading text books, searching on the web, working with Interactive Whiteboards, watching videos, listening to music. And of course the same applies to being out of school - working at home or on a school trip. You are a 'copyright consumer'.


Personal Study

It is OK to copy and keep many copyright materials for 'personal' study without asking for permission; that's the law in UK and most countries.  This applies to anyone, anywhere and anytime - not just in school. BUT (and it's a big BUT) two things:

  1. it doesn't cover sharing them with other people, publishing on a website or VLE, distributing them on the web, etc. it's just for personal use - your pc, your lap-top, your i-pad - your personal learning. 
  2. it doesn't cover sound recordings, film and broadcasts - as things currently stand - though some of this is covered by 'education exceptions' and by licences that schools have for copying and replaying copyright materials.

So ...

Personal Study + Exceptions + School Licences pretty much covers students and pupils for their personal study needs - but not sharing, putting on the web, re-using, etc.

Copyright isn't straightforward ... Frown


Whatever you are doing - acknowledge!

 One thing that applies to everything. If you use other people's work (quotations, images, socund clips - anything you've copied) acknowledge it! Acknowledging your sources helps with copyright and schoolwork.

  • acknowledge (or attribute) the source of the materials
  • acknowledge (or attribute) the creator of the materials


Some things that make it easier for schools

 In the UK there are also some special 'exceptions' in the copyright laws for learners in education, which lets you use materials for learning without getting special permissions. See Section 2 - 'Exceptions' - if you want more details.

 The school has licences - most of which they pay for - which let you use software and learning materials they provide for you.

 The school also has blanket licences - most of which they pay for - so you can watch recorded broadcasts, listen to recorded music, watch movies after school and photo-copy and scan small sections from books and magazines and photo-copy newspapers.  The school also gets special licences if it is putting on a musical or a carol service open to the public - and parents and friends count as public!

 There is a huge amount of material - from museums, libraries, the NEN, etc. - that allow education use of their materials without you having to ask for special permission.

There is a growing amount of material on the web that you can use because it has open licences such as 'Creative Commons'. 

Materials - such as old materials and some government papers - that are in the public domain do not have copyright restrictions.


So what's the problem?

 The problem comes when you want to:

  • use materials which are clearly marked 'copyright: all rights reserved."
  • re-use materials in your own work
  • share the materials with other people

 The other problem is that it all gets very complicated ...  In the copyright regulations copying from books isn't the same rule as as it is for films. Some websites encourage personal study without restriction but if you want to download the materials you have to pay. Even where the terms and conditons allow education use each website will have it's own version of exactly what that means. Copyright is, unfortunately, complicated :-(  


Why can't we just use them in school - it's not harming anyone?

  Some copyright owners are concerned about how how their materials might be used or misused if they just said 'OK. You can do what you like', so they take the safety-first position of reserviing the copyrights so if someone does misuse their materials they have recourse to the safeguard of 'copyright infringement'.

 Some copyright owners seek a revenue for their materials even though they are 'not-for-profit' businesses; sometimes it's this revenue that helps keep the website going so you can get the stuff free for personal use in the first place.

 Some copyright owners business is in the materials and they view unauthorised copying and sharing as an attack on their business and income. The most obvious example of this is peer-to-peer mass distrbution of music and films without permission.

 The 'exceptions' and licences together don't cover all the things we want to do these days in school.


The Bottom Line ...

 However if you want to copy copyright materials or re-use them in your own work the bottom line is that you have to have permission of the copyright owner to copy and re-use or re-distribute their materials. Sometimes the permission is provided on the website or alongside the materials - sometimes you have to write to get permission.


Getting Permissions

  If there is no clear indicator with the materials you want to use or on the website then you have to write off anmd ask for permission; email is usually OK. When you write state clearly what purpose you want to use the materials for and whether it is just for you to hand in as schoolwork or if it will appear on a website and be seen by other people. You could also say how long it is needed for - if it's just for a school year, that may encourage a 'Yes' answer. 

 However, all sorts of problems can arise from someone not answering you message, saying 'No', asking for a licence fee or taking so long to answer it doesn't fit your needs; i.e. to hand in your homework by next Wednesday or whatever.

 On the bright side sometimes people say, 'Yes of course you can.' giving you a feelgood factor and sometimes some extra information.


What to do?

  • Try and use materials which are copyright OK.
  • Make sure it's actually school work.
  • Learn to recognise and respond to the big signals of risk.
  • Don't put other people's copyright materials on the open web where anyone can see and copy them
  • Copying and reusing materials from websites that have an obvious 'no you can't policy' - whether big company or organisation or an individual website owner
  • Using other materials in way that is 'derogatory' to them - in a way which might be seen to bring their name into disrepute (this is called a 'moral right')
  • Copying and using copyright materials in such as way that it has a negative impact on the business of the copyright owner; this could be in indirect ways such as effecting the company's name and misrepresnting their service as well as direct ways of reducing sales and revenue.  
  • Storing materials where other people can access and use them, maybe years after you've finished with them by whioch time no-one will know the copyright restrictions associated with the files
  • Mass downloading and mass uploading - e.g. peer-2-peer - of copyright protected materials
  • Note: Music and Film are high risk areas
  • If it's important - ask for permission



 Permissions - information, guidance and what to put in a letter.