Has your work been shared without your permission? Five things you can do
By ucyldao, on 1 February 2023
In this blog we often highlight the importance of respecting others’ legal and moral rights when using copyrighted materials.
We tend to speak less often about copyright infringement affecting you as an author. Yet this is clearly as important. It is increasingly the case, for example, that students make teaching resources – including lecture slides, handouts and test questions but also, in some cases, unpublished articles, research data and code – publicly available online. This is done without the lecturer’s permission.
In an online environment, students may have a genuine desire to share resources with others. Many are also encouraged to be upload their lecture notes (although they also include their lecturers’ materials) on online platforms, in exchange for access to other resources or even for payment. As a result, materials meant to support students on a specific course but not to be shared without further quality control are made available, risking the lecturer’s or University’s reputation and even compromising publication and commercialisation opportunities.
If you find your teaching materials have already been shared, or if you are concerned that they might appear online without your consent, here are some things you can do:
- Know your rights. The default position at UCL is that copyright to your teaching materials belongs to you. Be aware of this fact and if necessary assert your rights, letting others know that sharing is not allowed without your permission.
- Mark your work as copyright. Although this is not necessary for copyright to be protected, it is helpful for you and for others to know who the copyright owner is and that the work should not be copied or shared unless explicitly permitted (i.e. for the purposes of the course).
- Take down materials. The first point of call should be the student; explain to them that the material was unlawfully uploaded and kindly ask them to have it removed. If this is not possible, most platforms have take down request forms they require you to use. The UCL copyright team can also provide wording if necessary.
- Educate your students. It is most likely lack of awareness that makes others infringe copyright. The copyright team is preparing communications to increase the understanding of copyright issues. You can contribute to this effort: you may want to explain to them the consequences of sharing materials unlawfully and where possible, make this awareness part of your teaching. You can also encourage them to complete the online Copyright Essentials module, a short introductory resource.
5. Make your materials open – in your own terms. In some cases where you feel your materials can be shared more widely, you may find it appropriate to license them so that others can reuse them, while you retain copyright, get attributed, and specify the terms of reuse. Creative Commons Licences are the best way to do this. You can specify, for example, whether others can adapt the materials – a great benefit of open educational resources – and whether or not they can be reused commercially.
For more information and support on copyright, we run sessions on copyright for research, teaching, publishing contracts and Creative Commons licences. See our current programme or contact us to arrange a bespoke session.