An introduction to Copyright

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There are millions of examples of original works online:
images, songs, sounds, maps and films.

Every single one belongs to a person or an organisation.

Any person or organisation that creates an original work automatically owns the copyright for it and that means you don't automatically have the right to use them yourself.

However, there are rules that allow you to use some works for school and you need to know about the ways that you are allowed to use these original works.

1. Private research

Many creators allow you to copy their work, so long as it is for your own private research. You don't have the right to publish it, in print or online without permission.

2. Educational Purpose Licences

You can use any copyrighted material for schoolwork, but you should always credit the owner.
e.g. © J Macfadyen, 2012. Investigations and essays should also have a bibliography at the end to show where you found your information.

However, Educational Purpose only applies if your work will be used in school and ONLY within school e.g. an investigation or powerpoint. If your work will be published elsewhere, e.g. a webpage or a blog entry, then you need a licence to use it.

3. Public Domain

Copyright only lasts for a certain amount of time depending on the country you are in and the type of material created. For example, photographs are copyright for 70 years after the photographer dies.

Once the Copyright has gone, the material becomes Public Domain and can be used by anyone.

4. Other licences

Some organisations have agreed to let people use their work under special licences, like Creative Commons and GNU. If you use a work with one of these licences, you have to follow the owner's instructions.

Click here to find out more about Creative Commons licences.


Please see this leaflet for more information about copyright,
courtesy of the UK Copyright Service.

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Last updated
September 23, 2014