Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Study Skills

Research skills

Online course for Cambridge researchers about publishing, managing data, finding and disseminating research.

Copyright and licenses 

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.

We’ll cover: 

  • The basics of what copyright is and why it’s important 
  • What to do if you want to use someone else’s work 
  • How to protect and share your own work 
  • How licenses can be used to make it easier to reuse works 

What is copyright and why does it matter? 

Here are some key points:

Copyright covers any intellectual works (such as text, images, sound, etc) from the moment it is 'fixed’ in any form (written down, recorded, etc) 

Copyright protects the work’s creators and ensures they are justly rewarded for their efforts 

Copyright includes economic rights, such as copying, renting, performing and adapting the work; these can be transferred to someone else (usually for a fee) 

Copyright also includes moral rights, such as the right to object to derogatory treatment and the right to be cited as the author; these cannot be transferred 

Copyright expires at some point; in the UK the copyright of literary works usually expires 70 years after the death of the author 

If you would like more detail, read this blog by Chris Morrison and Jane Secker about the 9 things you need to know about copyright.  

Using someone else's work.

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



Fair dealing Moore Minute video

Third party copyright resources on the Office of Scholarly Communication website

Guide to redacting your thesis

'How to' tips for reusing images from the Engineering Library

Who owns your work? 

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. 



Univeristy of Cambridge Intellectual Property advice 

Discussion of the process of negotiating a copyright transfer agreement 

Example of an Author’s addendum (USA)

Creative Common licenses

A Creative Common (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.



I want credit for my photo​

I don’t want anyone to change it​

I don’t want anyone to make money from it​


I want credit for my infographic

People are free to build on it and change it ​

I don’t want people to make money from it​

They must share their work under the same terms​


I want people to use this resource freely

I don't want money or credit



People are free to build on my presentation and change it​, as long as they credit me

They can charge people to hear them deliver it​


Having considered the scenarios above, did you select the correct Creative Common License to suit the author's purpose? 

Scenario 1: CC-BY-NC-ND (attribution, non-commercial, no-derivatives)

Scenario 2: CC-BY-NC-SA (attribution, non-commercial, share alike)

Scenario 3: CC-0 ('CC zero', the work is in the public domain)

Scenario 4: CC-BY (attribution only)

© Cambridge University Libraries | Accessibility | Privacy Policy