Home | Designing Shakespeare | Linking Teaching & Research | Completed Projects | Support Materials
Support Materials
Resource Areas
Go to the Designing Shakespeare area
Go to the Linking Research and Teaching Area
Go to the Completed Projects Area

Copyright in the digital world

The issue of copyright is a very important one when starting to create digital resources. While the principles are similar to photocopying material for teaching the fact that digital materials may come from many different sources and can be distributed to many different sources over the web makes the issue a bit more complex.

There is another point which is often overlooked, the materials you and your students create are also invested with copyright. While there are educational exceptions for private study and review in both cases, the creation of multiple copies for teaching is not covered by fair dealing. If you would like your own copyright to be respected it is essential that you respect the copyright of others.*

Copyright Overview

1. What is covered by copyright?

The following categories are protected under copyright law:

  • Original literary works - includes prose, poetry, tables, compilations, songs, computer programmes, websites and anything else which is computer readable including digital images
  • Original artistic works - includes graphics, paintings, photographs, jewellery, architectural designs, maps, charts, carvings, sculpture, OHP slides, power-point materials once printed out (no artistic merit is required)
  • Original musical works
  • Original dramatic works - plays, scripts, screenplays, mime, choreography
  • Sound recordings
  • Broadcasts
  • Cable Transmission
  • Films
  • Typographical arrangements
  • Performances Designs

2. What constitutes an infringement of copyright?

The following are restricted acts in terms of copyright law:

  • Copying
  • Issuing copies to the public
  • Performing, showing or playing to the public
  • Broadcasting
  • Adapting
  • Storing in any electronic medium
  • Rental and lending
  • Importing infringing copies
  • Dealing in infringing copies
  • Providing means for making infringing copies
  • Provision of premises or apparatus for infringing performances
  • Authorising infringement

3. How long does copyright last?

The duration of copyright for each of these categories is set under current copyright law as follows:

Creative category Duration of copyright
Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works life of the author plus 70 years (If the author is unknown it is 70 years from the date of creation)
Live Broadcasts 50 years from the first broadcast
Sound recordings 50 years from the recording
Cable transmission 50 years from the transmission
TV and Film life of the authors plus 70 years (in this category it is the death of the last author, the authors being the screenwriter, composer, director, author of dialogue and the producer)
Typographical arrangements 25 years (from date of 1 st publication)
Performances 50 years
Designs 15 years (from date of creation or first sale)

4. How do you avoid infringements of copyright?

First, it is essential to check the copyright status of all materials you would like to use.

Second, you should contact the copyright holder to gain permission for use. This may involve a legal agreement and the payment of a fee.

Whenever you contact any copyright holders it is essential to keep on file all communications. This is called due diligence. What it means is that if you cannot find the copyright holder and go ahead with use of the material you can show that you made every effort to contact the person if they suddenly appear.

You should only use material for which you have written permission or which appears with a statement that confirms that it is available for educational use. Fortunately, more and more material is being made available for public and/or educational use.

It is prudent to also encourage your students to be aware of copyright restrictions since authorising infringement is an offence in copyright law.

5. Why is copyright such a big issue in the digital world?

There are a number of reasons why the issues of copyright are made more difficult in the digital world.

The key issues are as follows:

  • ease of copying
  • ease of dissemination
  • cheapness of copying
  • perfect quality of copies
  • difficulties in policing

Other resources

There are a number of websites that are designed to give you an overview of the issues of copyright in Higher Education in the UK.

The Educational Recording Agency (ERA licensing information)

AHDS Copyright and Digitisation Workshops

Copyright and licensing for Digital Preservation (CLDP home page)

CLDP copyright information links page (copyright legislation and links to further reading)

JISC Plagiarism Advisory Service

TASI Copyright Advice page

*The information on this website cannot be seen as a substitute for legal advice. If you have a particular query it is advisable to contact the person in your own institution who deals with the legal issues surrounding copyright and intellectual property.

Back to top