Welcome to this module on copyright and licenses.
Copyright law is a complex field so we will focus on the aspects that are most relevant for researchers who need to protect their own intellectual work and use work written by others, and most importantly must avoid accidentally infringing copyright. Please bear in mind that the information in this module is intended for information only and does not constitute legal advice.
Copyright often seems to be a hindrance to researchers but it is actually there to offer valuable protection for your work. It offers a system which offers guidance on what you can use in your work and how you can share the results of your own research whilst helping creators to get the recognition they deserve.
Copyright does not have to be complicated as long as you remember some key principles:
To begin with, we'll look at what you can and can't do with work authored by other people. You know that you need to cite them, but is that enough? Can you copy an extended quotation? Can you show a graph in your webinar? Watch this video to find out more.
Third party copyright resources on the Office of Scholarly Communication website
'How to' tips for reusing images from the Engineering Library
What about work that you created: surely you can do whatever you like with it, right..? It's not so simple. In this video you'll learn more about copyright transfer agreements and what they mean for you as an author.
University of Cambridge Intellectual Property advice
Discussion of the process of negotiating a copyright transfer agreement
Example of an Author’s addendum (USA)
A Creative Commons (CC) license allows authors to retain copyright but offer everyone permission to reuse their work under specified conditions. This video explains how they work.
Test your knowledge of CC licenses by considering the scenarios in the tabs below. Which license would you select in each case? Remember that you can select individual elements of the license or combine multiple ones. You'll find the answers at the bottom of this page.
Must acknowledge the creator of the work.
Cannot change/remix the work.
Only the original author can make money.
New creations must be shared under the same rules.
Each element can be combined into one of the six main licences. The combination of elements you choose will depend on what you will allow others to do with your work.
For example, the licence on the left is made up of a combination of two elements (BY and ND). These produce a CC-BY-ND licences which stipulates that the creator is willing to let other people use it as long as the original creator is credited and the work is not changed in any way. Different combinations of elements will produce licences which are more or less restrictive depending on what the creator wants.
CC0 indicates that content can be used freely, without any restriction, including the need for attribution. By applying CC0 to their works the creator waives all their rights to be associated with it. Users can give attribution to CC0 works if they wish, but are under no obligation to do so.
When assigning a licence it is important to remember that these are legally binding and cannot be revoked. It is worth spending some time considering the various licences to ensure the one you select is appropriate.
You might want to put your grasp of Creative Commons to the test in the quiz below. Take a look at the resources and the information on what the creator wants to allow others to do with their work. Then use the elements above and try to construct an appropriate licence. You can find the answers at the end of this page.
As we said at the start copyright is a complex topic. It is important that you think carefully about what you can use in your own work and how you can share this with others but perhaps the most important thing is knowing that it is OK to ask for help or clarification. There are many sources of copyright help available to you across the University:
The University Libraries run a dedicated Copyright Helpdesk which you can email with queries or for one-to-one advice.
Did you know that the University also has a Legal Services Office? They provide guidance on a range of issues including copyright (you will need to sign in with your Raven password).
If you want to explore copyright in more detail you can read the Copyright for Researchers guide which contains information and links relevant to copyright in research.