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Copyright Queries



This Academic Writing Month, think of your rights as authors

By c.daouti, on 7 November 2022

November is Academic Writing Month: an annual event giving you the opportunity to set some writing goals and put time aside to meet them, while sharing progress and writing tips with others. Whether you are an academic researcher, a postgraduate research student or in any other role involving academic writing, we hope that your writing is going well and that your research article, thesis draft, book chapter, monograph or conference paper gets a bit closer to being completed.

Completion, of course, is just the beginning. Take journal articles, for example: imagine that happy moment when you click on ‘Submit’ on a publisher’s platform. Even better, imagine the moment you receive the acceptance email confirming that your paper will be published, after weeks or months of waiting, responding to reviewers’ comments, editing and resubmitting. Publication will be your reward for all these writing efforts, and for a moment it feels like there’s nothing else to think about other than your next publication.

photo of contract and pen

This image is in the public domain.

Except there is still something important to think about. On acceptance, you are asked to sign a publisher agreement. Unless you are publishing the paper open access, what you are asked to sign is usually either a copyright transfer agreement where you assign your copyright to the publisher, or an exclusive licence where you keep copyright but still need permission from the  publisher to reuse your own paper. As you normally need to sign the agreement quickly to avoid publication delays, there is little opportunity to read the terms and conditions carefully, let alone to question or negotiate them, particularly if the licence is a click-through document.

Most of us have done this – I certainly have: in the excitement and relief of getting a paper article accepted, we sign away our rights to the paper, often limiting its potential to be accessed, read, and cited. And while sometimes a standard agreement allows us to keep some rights – including the right to reuse the article in our own teaching, or to republish in a collection –  these are not guaranteed and are often restrictive; like the right to share the article online but only 12-24 months after publication. There are good reasons why cOAlition S funders, including UKRI and the Wellcome Trust, require their funded researchers to retain their rights to their publications and share them with the most permissive Creative Commons Licence. But regardless of your funder, being aware of what you are giving away in a publisher agreement and trying to keep some rights is beneficial both for you as a researcher and for the audiences you want to reach.

Three things you can do about your rights

  1. In-between writing sprees this November, take this short quiz about your rights as author. What do you stand to lose if you sign the publisher agreement without reading it? Discover some simple things you can’t do after signing a standard agreement.
  2. Next time you are presented with an agreement to sign, take a moment to read it through. Are you keeping enough rights to share your knowledge as you want to?
  3. Come along to one of our sessions on Copyright and your publishing contracts. You can bring a contract to discuss. The next session is in person on 7 December 2022, but we also run sessions online and on demand. Please contact us at copyright@ucl.ac.uk for advice or to arrange a session.


Intellectual property rights, open licences, and climate justice

By c.daouti, on 24 October 2022

Happy Open Access Week 2022!                   

Ocean with Open Access logo

International Open Access Week 2022 image: ocean. https://www.openaccessweek.org/

This year’s theme is about opening up knowledge to tackle the climate crisis. It is about addressing inequities in how different communities access, create, share and use knowledge and resources that make it possible to prepare and respond to natural disasters and to understand and develop rapid solutions to problems caused by climate change. It is also about highlighting and celebrating practices that open the way to more collaborative, inclusive and sustainable ways of working.

Open practices and climate change

Open access – traditionally defined as immediate online availability of research publications, in ways that allow anyone to read them, share with others and reuse them  – plays an important role in enabling access to knowledge; but clearly it is not enough. The scope of Open Access week itself has evolved over the years to acknowledge this. Diverse communities – researchers, educators, policy makers, innovators, activists, the wider public – from different economic, cultural and discipline backgrounds need to be able to share ideas, data and tools, as well as literature. In other words: open science.

Open science (or ‘open scholarship’) includes any practice that enables the sharing of knowledge, tools and resources throughout the research process, in ways that allow further development of these resources. Transparency is key in open science, so that research processes and outcomes can be discovered, evaluated and, where relevant, reproduced by others. Open access, open data, reproducible research practices, open education and, crucially, citizen science, are all practices that help address the progress of climate change research while being sustainable themselves.

But for open science to be possible, barriers – geopolitical, economic, societal, or legal – need to be identified and addressed in flexible ways.

The role of intellectual property and open licences

Intellectual property is one of these barriers; but can also provide the answers. Research literature, educational materials, websites, databases, software and hardware equipment are all, by default, protected by copyright, design rights or patent rights. And while it is true that, in many cases, IP rights provide commercialisation incentives that make innovation possible, it can also be argued that climate change and the need for fast interventions is not one of these cases (see relevant article on IP’s role against climate change).

What can then be done to open up knowledge and resources so that anyone in the world can, not only access them, but also evaluate, adapt, develop and reuse them?

File:Difference between open license, public domain and all rights reserved copyright.png

Boyoung Chae, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Difference_between_open_license,_public_domain_and_all_rights_reserved_copyright.png

The first – relatively simple – solution is open licensing. Open licences work within IP law, to determine how others can reuse materials that are under copyright. Creative Commons Attribution Licences  can be applied to various works, including documents, websites, film, images and data. The most permissive CC BY licence allows sharing, adapting and even reusing commercially, as long as the authors are acknowledged. Similarly, open source licences can be applied to software, code and even hardware. Examples of open licensed materials that help education, research and innovation in climate change include the use of CC licences in preserving cultural heritage affected by climate change, the use of open source licences to tackle climate change and the open licensing of the UNU website, which focusses on environmental issues. 

One step further from open licensing is waiving copyright and releasing a work in the public domain. Waiving copyright can boost collaboration and innovation, particularly where there is ambiguity around who owns rights across different country legislations.

The second way in which IP can help foster openness is through initiatives that seek to address IP conflicts and align policies, so that, for example, rights ownership, commercialisation and openness can co-exist. For example, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is doing a lot of work on addressing IP issues with a view to accelerate environmental research and technology development, while initiatives like the Open Climate Campaign and the European Commission address legal and governance barriers so that openness can be better supported.

Finally, open availability of knowledge related to climate change comes with a responsibility to support the understanding and critical evaluation of these open resources. As with any politically charged issue vulnerable to misinformation, information literacy is essential. Educators, including library professionals, are in a good position to offer guidance on discovering, evaluating, using, attributing and compiling evidence from various sources. Understanding how rights and open licensing can help open up knowledge is part of these responsibilities.

For UCL’s current skills programme see the library’s training sessions.

For advice on copyright and licensing, please contact copyright@ucl.ac.uk.



Copyright infringement, plagiarism, or both? Keeping it both ethical and legal when using others’ work

By c.daouti, on 3 October 2022

Venn diagram copyright and plagiarism

Created by MlLauba. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:MLauba. Licensed and reshared under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.


One question that often comes our way refers to copyright infringement and plagiarism. Are they the same (mal)practice? In what ways do they overlap or differ? Being able to recognise and avoid these practices is essential: plagiarising others’ work and/or using it illegally damages both the interests of the author and your own reputation.

Take this image for example. We didn’t create this diagram: we found it on the web and included it here. We have credited MLauba as the person who created this graphic. We have also acknowledged them as the copyright holder, and shared the image under the licence they specified. If we hadn’t acknowledged the author and passed this image as our own work, this would be plagiarism. If we had acknowledged the author but didn’t meet copyright requirements (i.e. follow the terms of the licence) this would have been copyright infringement. Plagiarising someone else’s work violates their moral right to be attributed as the author. Breaching copyright has more to do with violating their commercial and legal interests.

Here we outline the main features of each practice, and offer advice on how to avoid them. Please contact us if you would like more information.

table comparing plagiarism and copyright

UCL copyright news, September 2022

By c.daouti, on 20 September 2022

""A new addition to the TLS team

I was delighted to join UCL in August, sharing the copyright support role with Chris Holland and reporting to Hazel Ingrey in Teaching and Learning Services (TLS). My research background is in Psychology but I’ve worked for many years in open access, copyright and, in the last couple of years, the wider world of open science, with a focus on developing communications and training in open practices.

I’m particularly excited to join UCL at a time when copyright literacy is becoming more relevant than ever in higher education. I’m not just talking about knowing when and how to copy and reuse others’ work in research, learning and teaching, although, of course, this is essential.  I’m also talking about authors’ rights playing a key role in a very wide range of initiatives, including the connected curriculum, the development of open educational resources, calls for rights retention in research publications, and practically all open science practices, seeking to make research openly accessible and reusable. From student-created films, articles and other outputs to FAIR data and from open source software to citizen science projects, an understanding of copyright and open licences gives you, the creators of knowledge, not only the confidence that you are following the rules, but also the opportunity to shape the rules. Do contact us at copyright@ucl.ac.uk if you are interested in discussing any of these topics.

Please watch this space in the coming months; we have a lot of exciting work underway, including creating additional guidance on the copyright website and some online modules that we hope will be fun as well as informative. In the meantime, have a look at our scheduled sessions below or contact us at copyright@ucl.ac.uk with any copyright questions you have or to arrange a session at your school.

Upcoming training sessions

  • Copyright for postgraduate research students, 15 November 2022 at 10 am on Teams. Join us to learn all things copyright related to your thesis, publications and research data. When and how can you use others’ work in your research? How do you manage copyright to your own research? Full description and registration
  • Copyright for research staff, 17 November 2022  at 10 am on Teams. In this session we refresh your memory on the basics of copyright before we address rights and licensing in your research publications, data and open access practices. Full description and registration
  • Copyright for teaching staff, 22 November 2022 at 2 pm on Teams. When can you include a resource (e.g. a quote, image, recording) in a lecture? What about a recorded lecture? What about Moodle? While this session outlines what isn’t advisable to do, it also focuses on what is possible. Full description and registration
  • Understanding open licences, 29 November 2022 at 3 pm on Teams. This live online session discusses open licences in research, learning and teaching, with a focus on Creative Commons Licences. Full description and registration.

To arrange a session on a different date that suits you, please contact us at copyright@ucl.ac.uk. See also the full calendar of Library Skills training for sessions on literature searching, referencing, systematic reviews, data management plans and much more.

Update from Icepops 2022


This image is available under a CC0 public domain licence.

Icepops stands for International Copyright-Literacy Event with Playful Opportunities for Practitioners and Scholars. The event was devised by Chris Morrison and Jane Secker and is run in conjunction with the CILIP Information Literacy Group.

Judging from this year’s event, held in Oxford, ‘playful’ is an understatement. Icepops is serious fun – and I’m not saying this because of the stickers, sweets, balloons, puppets, ice-breaker games and lovely food; although these things certainly made the event unique! This is a really friendly and interactive event, bringing various people from different backgrounds and levels of expertise together to share ideas, not just on their favourite ice cream flavours but also on how to shape copyright education and why this matters.

I learnt a lot in this event. Every single presentation was relevant and interesting; a most extensive discussion on topics covered will follow in future posts. For now, my main takeaways are:

  • Dr Emily Hudson’s keynote on the pastiche exception in copyright law. An inspiring session, both in terms of addressing nuances in the law and in terms of pedagogy: a great model for encouraging learners to think critically about copyright.
  • The keynote by Dr Andrea Wallace and Douglas McCarthy on the future of open access to digital collections in the UK: a colourful journey told almost entirely in images. The discussion revolved around the GLAM principle that works in the public domain should remain in the public domain once digitised (also see their 2020 article).
  • The Copyright Jedi convention on the future of copyright education. Many valuable perspectives on critical copyright literacy; on the need for the general public to have a better understanding of rights; and a call not to be afraid of copyright but use relevant knowledge as a means to an end.

Finally, there were plenty of updates and exciting ideas communicated in the lightning talks and the demos session. I had to opportunity to present a new online resource for students – watch this space for more information soon.

Who’s afraid of copyright? Five key points for UCL staff and students to help you start the new term with confidence

By c.daouti, on 30 August 2022

With the new academic year upon us, what better time to post a refresher on copyright practices?

Whether you are preparing your lectures, carrying on with your research projects, attending new modules or writing your dissertation, here is a reminder of what you can do when using resources in your teaching, learning and research…while staying within copyright law.

  1. You can rely on licences and services the University subscribes to. CLA licence logoThe CLA Higher Education licence allows UCL staff to scan or photocopy extracts from a large number of books and journals. The service is managed by the library: teaching staff putting together reading lists should visit the Course Readings webpage. Please see our earlier post on how the CLA works.

Similar licences are in place for newspapers (NLA Media Access licence) and recordings (Educational Recording Agency – ERA licence/Box of Broadcasts  – BoB service).

2. Electronic journals and e-books. You don’t always need to digitise or copy. You can access (and provide links for your students) to the vast amount of electronic resources, including journal articles and e-books, e-books and digital journal articles the University subscribes to.

3. Open Access resources. You can access any Open Access journal articles, book chapters, monographs and other resources, including those held in UCL’s very own Open Access repository or published by UCL Press. If a resource is licensed under an open licence such a Creative Commons licence you don’t have to worry about limits to how much you can copy.

Creative Commons logoYou may also be able to adapt the resource and share with others, depending on the terms of the licence. Visit the openverse resource, a database of over 600 million image and audio materials that are openly licensed or in the public domain: you can reuse these without permission in your research, studies and teaching. Please be sure to comply with any licence terms.


  1. Fair dealing. For materials that are not licensed for reuse, you can consider relying on ‘fair dealing’. Essentially this means that UK copyright law allows you to use limited amounts of published materials for specific purposes, including research and educational purposes (e.g., quotation, criticism and review, illustration for instruction, examination). Use of the materials should be reasonable and appropriate to your purpose, in ways that do not damage the commercial interests of the creators/rights owners; and you should always fully acknowledge the authors and the source.

Fair dealing is a matter of interpretation and therefore you may want to seek advice if unsure. This brings us to our final point.

  1. You can contact the library’s copyright team for further information and advice or to discuss a training session. We offer introductory sessions on copyright, as well as more specialised sessions  related to your theses, research and teaching. We will be sharing this term’s programme very soon. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us at copyright@ucl.ac.uk. We look forward to hearing from you.


Fair dealing week! 21st – 25th February 2022

By Hazel M Ingrey, on 18 February 2022

The first UK Fair Dealing week is nearly upon us!  Celebrating the Fair Dealing exceptions in UK copyright law, this week highlights and encourages a better understanding of the topic.  It began as the US ‘Fair Use Week’ which this year has been extended to include countries who use the concept of Fair Dealing in their copyright law.  Though different doctrines they have core similarities.

Chris Holland will write separately about the concept of Fair Dealing and the UK copyright exceptions it works alongside, and the considerations or ‘test’ you might refer to.  For now we wanted to point you to the events happening: the ALT Copyright and Online Learning Special Interest Group have a comprehensive list of events.  I also look forward to Chris reporting back on the Bloomsbury Learning Exchange panel discussion, on 24th February, which he is taking part in.

We would love to hear from anyone who attends the events and wishes to add their thoughts here. And as always, if this raises any questions then do request a staff briefing, or Q&A, or meeting with your students with a focus on Fair Dealing specific to teaching, research or a student project.



Learning on Screen: copyright training

By Hazel M Ingrey, on 17 February 2022

https://www.flickr.com/photos/creativecliche/6476864177; https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

‘Roll of film’ by Dale Mastin-Purcell is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

We often have questions around using audiovisual works in teaching or research and, whilst we are always very happy to help you with specific questions, if you regularly work with audiovisual material it can be helpful to find out more so you can re-use or create with more confidence in future.

Learning on Screen (formerly the BUFVC) specialise in moving image in education.  Their online training course ‘Copyright and creative re-use in Education’ has new dates added for March and April 2022.  As they describe it:

‘This course will explore the main copyright issues related to lawfully accessing, using and producing audiovisual works in educational settings. Primarily aimed at teachers, students, academics, researchers, librarians, and other people dealing with audiovisual works in education, this course will help attendees understand the conditions under which audiovisual works can be used lawfully for educational purposes; and how mash ups and other derivative works can be created and exploited within and beyond educational settings. In particular, the course will address the challenges posed by copyright law in relation to moving to online teaching.’

UCL is a member of Learning on Screen so chose the discounted option if you choose to book!  This course can also be booked for an institution or department.

If you have a different copyright training topic in mind that would help your department or group of students, do get in touch with UCL Copyright and we will tailor training to suit you!


Covid-19 update: Box of Broadcasts and the ERA licence

By Hazel M Ingrey, on 9 June 2020

UCL’s ERA (Educational Recording Agency) licence enables recording of broadcast TV and radio for educational purposes: programmes are delivered through the searchable database BoB (Box of Broadcasts).  For more about the ERA licence and BoB, and how they can be used to support teaching, see this previous blog post on ‘TV and radio in teaching‘.


The ERA licence has a regional restriction and programmes can only be viewed from within the UK.  At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic the ERA negotiated with their rights holders to extend this where possible for UK students who have had to return to their home countries.

  • Since March, UK students who have returned home to any EU Member State have been able to access BoB.
  • Recently an additional extension was granted to UK students who have returned home overseas, for BBC News 24 content only.  BBC News 24 contains rolling news stories, documentaries and programmes such as Panorama and Our World.
  • Both these extensions are due to end on 31st July 2020.  The ERA recognise that universities would like this extended further, and are in talks with rights holders to extend this beyond July.

How does this work in practice for UCL students?  BoB has used technical measures to relax GEOIP restrictions so that wherever a UCL student is (in the UK, EU or beyond that) they will be able to search and view the whole of the BoB database, but only play back items that they are permitted to view.

Rights clearance for broadcast TV is very complex, with even BBC programmes containing third party content which needs to be individually cleared.  The ERA continue to negotiate for more of the archive to be available abroad and will make it available through BoB as it becomes possible.

If you have any particular requests of material for programmes you teach on please email us and we will collect requests and suggestions to pass on to the ERA.  Please note that the extension into the EU has been made possible by the EU portability directive, however this directive will cease to be available to the UK after the end of 2020 when the UK leaves the EU.


If you have questions about the ERA licence and its use, it is administered by UCL Library Services and you can contact us using the UCL Copyright email address.


Further reading: statements from the ERA

The full statement from ERA and Learning on Screen: ‘BoB goes Global’.

Learning on Screen: support during Coronavirus.


Update on Copyright support for UCL students and staff

By ucylcjh, on 1 April 2020

  • The UCL Library Services Copyright team  is currently working remotely. We are still available to assist with copyright enquiries from UCL students and staff specifically, so please do feel to contact us by emailing:  Copyright@ucl.ac.uk We will be checking those emails regularly, but we will also be working non-standard hours for the time being so please bear with us if it takes a while to reply to your questions.
  • We regret that you are not able to contact us by phone or to arrange face-to-face meetings, both of which would be possible for UCL students and staff under normal circumstances.
  • There is also some copyright information available on the UCL website which we may find useful.
  • Given the current difficulties you may be experiencing accessing academic materials we will add further posts with information about online sources which may be helpful.

DSM Copyright Directive will not be implemented in the UK

By ucylcjh, on 24 January 2020

The Minister responsible for intellectual Property, Chris Skidmore has stated very clearly that the UK Government has no intention of implementing the EU Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. The deadline for member states to transpose the Directive into their own laws is June 2021 by which time the UK will almost certainly have left the EU, so perhaps this should not come as a surprise, given that it may be politically difficult to be seen to be voluntarily implementing an EU measure in the circumstances.

Some of the new exceptions contained within the DSM Directive look very positive for the library and research communities, particularly the measures which provide a practical route for the digitisation and making available of “0ut-of-commerce works” on a large scale,while respecting the copyright in those works. So it is an interesting question whether the favourable measures from the Directive could also be implemented separately in the UK, outside of the framework of the EU Directive. Naturally even if that does prove possible, the UK will still lose out  on the advantages which will spring from the fact that some of the exceptions work across borders between member states.