Copyright FAQ

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

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

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 – 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

You and your students may include a fair amount of a copyrighted work when setting and answering examination questions. Fair is undefined in UK Law leaving you to judge the fairness of your copying but as with other teaching activities it is thought to be a small amount that does not financially harm the rights holder.

College’s CLA HE Licence permits the Library to supply digital copies of journal articles and book chapter for use in exams or as pre-reading for an exam. These should be requested in the same way as course readings, either via the Leganto reading list system or via the Recommended Reading team (

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

  • unpublished text and images created by you to teach your students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

Unless you are only showing a short clip to illustrate a specific teaching point, you should edit out:

  • music tracks
  • videos
  • films
  • TV and radio

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

Occasionally, you may wish your student to watch a feature film or documentary relevant to their studies. The commercial nature of these films means care should be taken to provide films fairly and legally.

Here are some options:

  • If the film has been broadcast on UK Television, it should be available on Box of Broadcasts, a service purchased by Imperial for educational use.  All broadcasts have a URL that you can share with students.  If you cannot see your film, Library Services can contact BUFVC to check if it can be added.
  • Borrow or purchase the film on DVD and host a classroom screening. UK copyright law includes an exception that permits lecturers to show TV and film to students on campus for educational purposes. The Library has a small collection of films and TV series but we don not have a DVD player. Therefore, you will need one of your own.
  • Ask students to watch the film using their own Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime accounts. Library Services provides group study facilities at the Abdus Salam Library or in GoStudy should students wish to watch as a group.
  • Stream the film in class from your own Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime accounts in defiance of the platform's terms of use. As a general rule, streaming platforms do not permit educational establishments to use their content, only paying customers. This is why it may be better to buy a screening licence.
  • Purchase a screening licence from BFIFilmbankmedia or MPLC. The Independent Cinema Office’s What licences do I need? and Film copyright licensing pages explain how to do this. Their FAQ How do I find out the distributor for a particular film? will help you pinpoint the distributor of your film and their contact details.
  • If you have exhausted all the safe options above, you can approach Legal Services for permission to stream DVD content on your department’s VLE in a way that mimics a classroom screening. Available only to students on the course, for 24-72 hours, download blocked and with notices to students that self-recording is prohibited. A named person should be responsible for safeguarding the source copy, controlling access and keeping files secure.

Never direct students to copies illegally uploaded to the internet, for example on YouTube or file sharing sites.

For further reading see the Code of fair practice for the use of audiovisual works in film education.

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. 

StuDocu contains various study materials such as lecture notes, summaries and exam papers. If these study materials have been provided to students by the College as part of their study programme and subsequently uploaded to StuDocu without permission, such use would amount to copyright infringement as copyright in such materials would usually belong to the College or individual academics who produced them; such use also poses a potential risk to personal data.

If College staff become on notice that study materials generated by them or colleagues have been uploaded on StuDocu’s website without consent, they should (or they should advise their colleagues to) submit a takedown request to StuDocu for the infringing material to be removed. They should retain evidence of their takedown request submission for future reference.

If the infringing materials are not taken down by StuDocu after a reasonable period of time following a takedown request, College staff should alert the College’s Legal Services Office via email providing information about the infringing materials such as their authors and links to the materials on StuDocu and attaching the evidence of any takedown requests for the materials in question made to StuDocu.

There are similar procedures for requesting the removal of infringing materials from Course Hero and you can submit a takedown request. If infringing material is hosted on Study Drive, please email them a takedown request at If you need any help with drafting this request, please reach out to the College’s Legal Services Office.

Lecture notes taken by the students themselves and subsequently uploaded to StuDocu or other coursework platforms may infringe copyright owned by the College/lecturer and this conduct may also be in breach of internal College rules. Students should also be aware that doing so may result in Turnitin flagging up possible plagiarism.

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.

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 Department. Follow any advice you receive.

Note: If the infringement notice relates to a lecturer recording or teaching materials then contact the Legal Services Office immediately for guidance and next steps.

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.

In formal situations, you should cite images as outlined in your journal’s style guide or chosen reference style (see Reference management).

In less formal situations you must still acknowledge the image’s creator, but you can be more flexible about how you do this.  For guidance, Creative Commons request that you acknowledge the following attributes of an image

  • Title
  • Author
  • Source (URL of the original image online *)
  • Licence

*If you aren’t sure if you are copying the original image, use TinEye or Google’s reverse image to find other copies of the web. Some critical analysis might help you work out who created it and who has copied it.

Attribution can be simplified by using websites with a citation feature. CC search provides a citation alongside the image for you to copy and paste. Wikimedia Deutschland has created an Attribution Generator for Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons images.  Xpert both searches and then captions Flickr images and allows you to caption Creative Commons licensed images from other websites. The caption is embedded in the image making it great for social media posts.

In a slide presentation, it can be quicker to add a reference slide as your last slide than caption each image individually.

When you use Imperial’s CLA Licence to facilitate copying extracts from books and journals for students you should always reference the source and add the words below to your slides and handouts

 Copied under CLA Licence – please refer to the full Copyright Notice (pdf)

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 their work.

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 difficult 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.

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.

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.

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 it may be possible to upload a copy, but if you didn’t then your paper should stay behind the paywall as to make a copy of the published version openly available on the web would be a breach of the publishing agreement you signed. Either way the best option is to display a doi link for the published version of the paper and a second link to the accepted author manuscript in your university repository or subject repository for those without a journal subscription.

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. For instructions, 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.

Download a guide to using ResearchGate (pdf)

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 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.

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.

Videos are complex because they can contain many different types of copyrighted works, people and may be shot on location.

If your video includes copyrighted works, such as artworks or clips from TV, film or videos, then you have made a copy and copyright law applies. This might be a good thing because copyright law allows you to deal fairly in the work as part of receiving instruction, as criticism, review, quotation or news reporting or as caricature, parody or pastiche. However, on the flip side it may also mean you have to request permission from the copyright holder to use their work as realistically you can’t use a small part of an artwork in any meaningful way. You must always reference other people’s work in the credits of your video and you should make a risk assessment on the likelihood of the copyright holder objecting to your use of their work, for copyright or reputational reasons.

People in your videos have rights. Anyone giving a live performance, for example an interview, lecture or concert, has performance rights in the video recording. You must therefore seek written consent from anyone performing in your video, to reuse anyone’s recorded performance and before redistributing their performance on the internet. The wording of the consent should be clear and specific, for example ‘I agree to my interview being included in [video name] and for it to be shared publicly on YouTube’. In a commercial setting you might ask the performer to licence or assign the rights in the performance to you. You should also gain the consent of anyone in the background of your shoot who is clearly identifiable and in a private space, for example a student who is captured working while a video is being shot in a laboratory. They may a have a reason, unknown to you, for not wanting to be photographed or for their image to be shared on the internet.

Your video maybe shot within a public space, for example a park or a high street, or a private space, such as your department or a museum. When filming in a private space always check the filming and photography policy of the location you plan to film in.  The Library’s filming and photography policy can be found on the Library website as can those of the local museums.

When faced with a video assignment it can be tempting to think that the simplest option is to reuse clips already uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo but this approach has a number of issues. Was the video uploaded by the copyright holder and did the video creator clear permissions correctly and fully? Does YouTube permit you take clips from its website and what might happen when you reload clips back to the site? If you took clips from ten You Tube and Vimeo videos you must copyright clear each of the ten clips. You Tube and Vimeo encourage self-policing of copyright and not all users understand that just because you can copy something sometimes you shouldn’t.  Be especially vigilant about illegally uploaded music, TV clips and film footage.

 Under UK law, you may be able to use short extracts from copyrighted works because they qualify as fair dealing under an exception or because the video maker has applied a suitable Creative Commons Licence. However, You Tube and Vimeo prohibit site users from extracting, reusing and redistributing content from outside the platform and outside of the platform’s functionality. So by using third party clipping software you are breaking their terms of use. This may not be important if your actions are backed by UK copyright law but if you were to reload the content to either platform and it was discovered then your account could be terminated. Remember that in a group assignment the copyright in the video is jointly owned by all the students that created it and so one person can’t upload a copy without the agreement of the whole group.