Being fair to the copyright holder

For your copying to be judged as fair it should not harm the copyright holder, financially or otherwise

Think! Would you object to your use of the work if you were the copyright holder?

Where possible, lecturers should provide links to online resources rather than making copies. Where it is essential to make a copy, or a work is only available in print, follow the guidance below.

This guidance covers normal teaching situations: teaching in the classroom, preparing slides and making slides or lecture recordings available on a VLE.

If you want to make your teaching materials or lecture recordings openly available on the internet then seek permission to reuse any copyrighted materials. College licences only cover use by Imperial staff and students.

Material type

UK Copyright Law contains an exception 'Illustration for instruction'. This enables you to use small amounts of copyrighted materials in your slides and other teaching materials without requesting permission from the copyright holder.

To be able to defend your use of copyrighted materials as illustration for instruction your copying must be:

  • for instruction or preparing instruction
  • fair to the copyright holder
  • non-commercial (e.g. teaching Imperial students)
  • the extract must be fully cited and referenced

A publisher’s contract cannot override this exception.

The College has a Copyright Licensing Agency Higher Education Licence. This enables:

  • lecturers and course administrators to provide each student with a single printed copy of a journal article or a book chapter, if it is part of the Library’s collection


  • Library Services to make a digital copy of a journal article or a book chapter, that is part of the Library's collection, available to students on your VLE

The licence does not include permission to make copies publicly available on the internet.

To check if a book or journal title is covered by the licence use the CLA’s Check permissions tool.

Use Leganto reading lists to request a digital reading for you students.

While copyright applies to materials on the internet, College licences do not. This means that if you select teaching materials from the internet instead of the Library's collection, you can only use them as dictated by UK Copyright Law and the licence displayed on the website. Website licences are often called Terms of use, are legally binding and can usually be found in the website’s footer.

A legal copyright exception (S34) allows you to show students TV programmes, films and videos for educational reasons, for example during a lecture or as a separate educational screening. The exception does not extend to format shifting a DVD for online streaming on a virtual learning environment, such as Blackboard, Moodle or Insendi.

The safest way to show students TV and film is to use Box of Broadcasts, which provides legal on-demand TV and radio, including films, for universities to use in educational activities. If you are unable to find what you want here, read the FAQ How should I ask students to watch a film for their course? for other options.

Do not provide links to pirate copies on file servers or illegal uploads on YouTube, as this puts you and Imperial at risk. You may also find that the film or TV clip may have disappeared when the student wants to watch the film.

Some images you find when doing a Google search will be free to use and others will be of high commercial value because they belong to professional photographers and stock photography companies such as Shutterstock & Getty imagesPhotographers and stock photography agencies make their living by selling images and will therefore bill you for unauthorised use of their images. Therefore before copying and pasting an image into your online course module or conference slides, always  read a the copyright and licensing information within the image metadata and read the website’s terms of use.

The safest images to use in teaching materials are images that are:

  • Your own
  • licensed for education use
  • licensed with a Creative Commons Licence

or those for which you have  you have obtained written permission from the copyright holder or paid for a licence to use the image.

You can ASK the Library to check for permission to reuse images from books and journals in our collections.

College licences do not include permission to make images available on the internet.

See Intellectual Property Office Copyright Notice: digital images, photographs and the internet for detailed guidance.

 Easy to reuse images  

If you do a Google search you will retrieve a large number of images with a wide range of licences. At a glance, it will be hard to know which images are safe to reuse and which are not.  Individually checking the reuse terms of each image can be time-consuming.

Often it is better to start your search within image collections that you know are licensed for easy reuse, for example, those that license images with Creative Commons Licences or permit educational reuse of their content. Below are some suggestions but it is a good idea to build up your own list of favourite image sites for use in lecturers and conference presentations.

Remember to acknowledge an image’s creator. See How do I acknowledge images? 

Images of College life

Imperial College London Digital Image Library

General images

Creative Commons Search - searches Google, Flickr and Pixabay for CC licensed images

Freeimages - search free images, avoid 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) licensed images

Unsplash see Unspash Licence

Subject specific image collections

CSIRO Science image (Scientific images) - Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence.

HEAL Collection (Medical images) - Many Creative Commons licensed images but check individual image metadata

Nasa image galleries (Space) - Noncommercial educational and informational use – see terms.

Public Health Image Library (PHIL) and other US Government image libraries. (Scientific images) - Educational use of most images but check individual image metadata.

Servier Medical Art (Medical diagrams) - Diagrams are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

VADS catalogue (Art & Design images). Non-commercial education reuse – see terms

For online newspaper articles, provide a link or follow the advice for web based materials.

The College has a Basic Newspaper Licensing Agency Licence. This covers all UK national newspapers and permits Imperial staff to make a cutting (article, report, photos and artistic works) available to students in print (max 250 copies), and, for some titles, a digital cutting on a VLE.

ASK the Library or the Central Secretariat if you have questions about this licence.

You may scan a small section of a printed map (A4 or less) and use it in your teaching materials.

For online maps please refer to the licence and/or terms of use and display any copyright notices requested by the supplier.

You should only play music tracks in a classroom lecture if it is for a teaching purpose, not for entertainment or to create an atmosphere. In lecture recordings and pre-recorded teaching materials keep your copying fair by shortening the tracks to only what is essential to make your teaching point. This will prevent these copies competing with commercially available copies on CD or on a music streaming platform such as Spotify.

Where students need to listen to whole tracks, in their own time, direct them to a library copy they can borrow, or to a website where they can legally listen to it or download a copy.