Copyright FAQ

How do I get something digitised for my students?

If you are already using Leganto Reading Lists, you do not need to do anything. Library Services will create digital copies of items on your reading list where this is the best way to deliver them to students.

Library Services can only digitise items within the limits of Copyright Law and College licences and, as the Library provides many e-journals and e-books, we will normally only digitise items that are not already available in an electronic format.

We recommend that you submit your reading lists as soon as they are ready, and a minimum of 2-3 weeks ahead of the course start date, to give us time to digitise items for your students.

If you are not yet using Leganto see How to request a digital copy for your VLE

My students can’t see a digitised item – who do I tell?

If your students are having difficulty accessing digitised content on your reading list ASK the Library to investigate.

Including the name of the course, in your message, will make it quicker for us to locate your list and fix the problem.

More help with Reading Lists

What is the best way to link students to online content?

As a general rule it is OK to link to online content from a reading list or VLE.

The only known exception is Harvard Business Review on EBSCO where linking students to specific journal articles is prohibited.

Library materials

Each item you find when using Library Search has a permalink. To view it, select Actions and Permalink.

Journal articles

You can turn a DOI into a link by adding the prefix to the DOI displayed on a journal article (e.g.


Copy the address (URL) displayed by your browser.


If you find you are having trouble linking your students to a library resource please ASK the Library

How can I quickly find an image to use in my slides?

If you do a Google search you will get a large number of images, some which will be protected by copyright, some that belong to stock photography agencies, some licensed under a Creative Commons licence and others offered for free.

Checking the licence of each photograph takes a lot of time so it is quicker to search sources that you know have images licensed under a Creative Commons licence or provide images free of charge.

Remember to acknowledge the photographer and image library where this is requested.

Some site suggestions

Imperial College London Digital Image Library

Creative Commons Search (searches Google, Flickr and Pixabay)

Freeimages (search free images, not Getty istock)

Flickr (search, then use advanced filters to see only Creative Commons images)

MorgueFile (free photos, avoid stock images)

Pexels (Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licence)

Unsplash – (Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licence)

What can I include in an exam paper?

Unfortunately the provisions for exams were reduced when UK copyright Law was updated in 2014. You may now only include an extract from a book, journal or website and not the whole work.

If you want to reproduce a whole journal article for an exam, pick a journal stocked by the Library and ASK the Library if there is permission within the College’s Copyright Licensing Agency Higher Education Licence to make multiple print copies available to students.

 If you choose materials from the internet then you can only use an extract from an online news article or blog post unless the website’s terms of use clearly say otherwise.

What can I include in my lecture recording (Panopto)?

Assuming your lecture is only for use by imperial students, you may include:

  • unpublished text and images created by you to teach your students
  • materials published under a suitable Creative Commons licence
  • short quotes from books, journal articles and conference proceedings
  • equations and other facts that are ‘common knowledge’
  • a small number of images from a book, journal article or conference proceedings
  • materials for which you have the written permission of the copyright holder

You should edit out:

  • music
  • videos
  • film clips
  • TV and radio clips

For more detailed information about lecture recording see Recording lectures: legal considerations

How can I stop students posting my lecture on YouTube

While you can’t technically stop students uploading your lecture to YouTube, you can add a statement to all your teaching materials that makes it clear to students what they can and can’t do with them.


© [year] Imperial College London. All rights reserved.

This presentation has been added to Blackboard to support your studies.

You may print and/or download a single copy for your personal, educational use.

Further redistribution of teaching materials, including making copies available on the internet, is not permitted. 

How do I ask a copyright holder for permission?

You should request permission from a copyright holder when neither law nor licence permit you to use a copyrighted work in the way you’d like to.

For books and journal articles the copyright holder is normally the publisher but check the copyrighted statement. For material on websites, the copyright holder may be the individual creator or owner of the website.

Once you have identified the copyright holder write to them providing the following details:

  • the work you want to copy
  • a link to the work (if on the web)
  • your intended use (purpose, format and location)
  • the amount / pages you want to copy
  • number of students on the course (if applicable)

Only use the copyrighted materials if you receive a positive reply and always keep on file any correspondence as proof of permission.

What should I do if I receive an infringement notice?

If you receive an infringement notice, take it seriously and don’t ignore it.

  1. Acknowledge receipt of their letter, or email, and confirm that you will look into the matter.
  2. Make no comment on whether you believe your use of their work is legitimate or not.
  3. Ask the complainant for more information if this would help.
  4. Take any action that will placate the complainant and stop the situation getting worse. For example, if the complaint is about making content available online, temporarily remove it.

Once you have all the relevant information decide if you think you have infringed the complainant’s rights and reply to them. If you aren’t sure ASK the Library or the Legal Services Office. Follow any advice you receive.

How much of printed Imperial thesis may I copy?

Please refer to the guidance in the front of the thesis as permission to copy varies by year and some theses may not be copied without the express permission of the author.

Where a thesis has no copyright notice, you should treat it in the same way as other library materials and copy only an amount that the author would think fair. As working guidance, we suggest you limit your copying to a single copy of one chapter or multiple extracts that add up to a similar amount. The purpose of your copying must always be non-commercial research or private study, and the copy should be kept personal, so not shared with others or placed on the internet.

How do I cite and reference the images in my slides?

Cite and reference images in your slides in the same way that you would cite them in a paper, making sure to link to the original source if it is online.

On the slide, show the citation, copyright holder and/or licence information displayed on the original source, then add a reference slide at the end of your presentation. Where it is impractical to display the citation on the slide, add the slide numbers to the reference slide at the end of your presentation.

What is a Creative Commons licence?

Creative Commons licences are a series of licences written in everyday language that allow content creators, such as photographers and writers, to clearly tell others what they can and can’t do with it.

Creative Commons came up with the idea of creating 6 licences that all allowed a work to be copied and shared but varied when it came to the things that people cared about most: commercial use, making derivatives and keeping works open.  

Creative Commons licences are useful to lecturers because they provide permission to re-use whole works, especially images, something it is not possible to do under UK Copyright Law. When citing an image or other work licensed with a Creative Commons licence, always add a link to the licence and the original work, see Best practices for attribution.

Use in university teaching materials is normally viewed as non-commercial use as your primary purpose is to educate students, not to make money. CC Search helps you locate images, music and videos licensed with a Creative Commons licence.

Is commercial copying allowed?

Unfortunately not. UK Copyright law restricts copying to fair dealing for private study and non-commercial research and the Library has no way of authorising commercial copying of items in the collection.

The British Library supports businesses and offers document delivery to your desktop.

What advice do you offer library visitors about copyright?

Visitors to the Library can use our collection for private study or non-commercial research. Please ensure your copying remains fair to the copyright holder and read the advice we give students on copying library materials.

Should I upload my papers / thesis to ResearchGate?

Research Gate and are not repositories but social networking sites aimed at researchers. They regularly encourage researchers to upload and share their latest research papers but just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. What you can do with a paper after it has been accepted for publication depends upon your publishing agreement.

If you published your paper as open access and with a Creative Commons Licence then the answer is likely to be yes, but if you didn’t then your paper will behind the publisher’s paywall. To make a copy of the published version openly available on the web would be a breach of the publishing agreement you signed.

Imperial recommends that you upload your paper to Spiral, the College's research repository. It will be safe and provide you with a link you can paste anywhere, including ResearchGate. Many members of College are uploading their accepted manuscripts to Spiral in preparation for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF), see guide to depositing an accepted paper in Spiral.

If you still wish to deposit in ResearchGate, please read the terms and conditions in the footer of the website. ResearchGate is a commercially run networking site, similar to Facebook and LinkedIn, and it is important to be aware of how they might use the content you upload.

When using ResearchGate, remember not all papers have been uploaded with the permission of the rights holder. As responsible researcher you should always obtain papers from a legal source such as the Library or a research repository. If the article your want is not available via Library Search, use the Open Access Button or Unpaywall to quickly find out if a repository copy exists.

Is it safe to use YouTube clips in teaching?

Yes and no. It is generally safe to link or embed YouTube videos in teaching materials so long as you:

  • Use the functionality provided by the service
  • Believe that video was uploaded with the consent of all the copyright holders
  • Or where unsure, judge the risk of the copyright holder challenging you or the College about your use to be low

Should you accidently direct students to infringing content you may find it missing when you come to teach your class. YouTube has a system whereby copyright holders can ask for videos to be taken down and the accounts of repeat offenders frozen.

Film, music and TV all have a high commercial value, therefore you are advised to only use clips uploaded by the rights holder, normally the production company (e.g. BBC or Film 4). Home recordings of TV programmes, music tracks and films should be avoided. Use Box of Broadcasts to show recent TV programmes and recordings back to the 1990s or ASK the Library to buy a DVD of a film for students to borrow.

You may use the functionality within Panopto to embed a YouTube video into a Panopto recording but must not include a YouTube video within the recording itself (pause or edit). Distributing copies of YouTube videos using alternative software is a breach of YouTube’s terms of use.

Can I upload full-text journal articles to Refworks, Endnote and Mendeley?

You may attach full-text copies of journal articles to references stored within reference management software. When selecting a sharing option for your account either choose to keep full-text articles private or share them only with members of your project group at Imperial.

Reference management software should be used to store individual articles relevant to your research project. It should not be used to systematically reference and store all the content of a journal.