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

Short extracts – all material types

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.

Journal papers and single book chapters

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 available on the internet.

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

Please link to e-books and e-journals provided by Library Services and only ask to digitise print materials or materials the Library does not stock.

Web based materials

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.

Films, videos and TV

There is a legal exception that allows you to show students films, videos and TV broadcasts during your lectures. This exception is classroom specific and does not extend to making them available to students on your VLE, the internet or showing films for entertainment.

If you are recording your lecture and wish to make audiovisual material available on your VLE, restrict the recording to short clips that illustrate your teaching point. Do not copy the whole film, video or broadcast.

You may embed TV clips from Box of Broadcasts and videos from YouTube but only embed videos where you are certain the content has been posted with the consent of the performer and copyright holders.

Photos and images

You can show images during a lecture, however for slides and other teaching materials you should only use images that are:

  • yours
  • licensed for education use
  • licensed with a Creative Commons Licence
  • with written permission from the copyright holder

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

 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 building 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 – Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licensed images

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

Newspaper articles

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 can perform a musical track during your lecture but you should not make it available on your VLE, unless it is being used to illustrate a teaching point. If you are recording your lecture, pause the recording while the music is being played or edit the recording before making it available to students, 

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.