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Engineering Library: Copyright and Creative Commons

Information about the Department of Engineering Library, including information for researchers

Black letter C surrounded by black circle representing copyrightCopyright

The following information is intended as a guide to copyright and does not constitute legal advice.

Copyright is one of a bundle of rights which help to ensure that a work is not used without permission. Copyright is automatically granted once the work has been produced in a tangible form, for example written down. In most cases the first copyright holder is the author of the work.

The rights of the author can be divided into two groups – the moral right to be identified as the author and the economic right to make money from their work. The author retains the moral rights but may choose to give away the economic rights, for example by publishing in a journal. More information about these rights can be found on the University of Cambridge Legal Services website.

Third party copyright refers to copyright that is owned by someone else. Legislation allows researchers to use short quotations, extracts or excerpts from others work as long as the use meets the requirements of ‘fair dealing for the purposes of criticism and review’.  If researchers wish to reuse content they have authored but already published it is important to check if the publisher will permit this.

Creative Commons provides a way to licence the use of material you create and share. Using a simple formula it allows creators to build a licence which suits their needs and authorised appropriate use of their work. Using a Creative Commons licence allows researchers to get more exposure for their work whilst maintaining control over its use.

For more information about copyright contact the Legal Services Office of the University.

Images and Copyright: How-To

If you're using images (photos, figures, graphs, etc.) in your presentations, reports or posters it's important to make sure you have permission to use them and that you credit the creators properly. When you've found an image online it can be difficult to know what you're allowed to do with it. Here's a step-by-step guide to using images from the internet:

  1. The easiest way to make sure you can use images is to create your own. You can also search for images that are licensed to be reused in the first place.  However, you should always check the source of the image for how to attribute it. 

  2. Look for a license on web pages where you find content telling you whether and how you can use it. Creative Commons licenses are the clearest to understand and should link you to informational pages about what you are allowed to do.

  3. If there's not a clear license, ask the creator for permission directly, explaining how you intend to use their work. Only use the image once you have received their explicit permission.

  4. If you can't find the creator's contact details or it has been posted without attribution, you can try a reverse image search to find the first instance of that image being posted.

  5. If you aren't convinced that you've found the original image and/or don't know how to attribute it, try to find another suitable image, or speak to a member of the Library team.

  6. There are several sources of free to use images. They may or may not need a credit and there may be restrictions on what you can do with them. ALWAYS check the licence. Sites include:

Creative Commons Explained

The video below, from the Betty and Gordon Moore Library, explains the basics of Creative Commons and the different licences available. Click the link below to watch the video (opens in YouTube).

Moore Minute video

Copyright for Teaching and Learning

Legal services has answered a series of common questions around use of images, video, music, and written materials for lectures and other teaching resources.

If you want to make copies of textbooks or journals papers available to your students for them to read, please contact the library for help with using the Higher Education CLA Licence to make these copies.

Copyright for Researchers Guide

The Copyright for Researchers LibGuide includes detailed information on copyright and creative commons for researchers.

The Research Skills LibGuide also covers copyright and licences. 

Creative Commons

Creative Commons provides a way to licence the use of material you create and share. Using a simple formula it allows creators to build a license which suits their needs and authorise the appropriate use of their work. For example if you produce an artwork and upload it online you might want to specify that people can use it in their own work as long as they give you credit. You can also specify that you don’t want others to make a profit from your work.

For more information on Creative Commons, see the Office of Scholarly Communication webpage

Register Your Completion

To register your completion of this online training, please go to the booking page below and click "book a place" (Raven login required):