University licences for copying

University licences for copying

The University of Birmingham participates in a number of licensing schemes that allow staff to access and use third party material over and above the limits of the ‘fair dealing’ exceptions.

Why is this relevant to me?

The licences explain how the materials may be used within a teaching and study context. Once you are aware of what you are allowed to do under a certain licence you can use the materials accordingly.

Current licences

For information on the current licences, please see the following sections:


The University holds over 300 licences relating to electronic journals and archives.  These licences generally allow the University to provide individual access for authorised users via the secured University network, but also to use the licensed content for teaching purposes e.g. multiple photocopying, downloading of articles for use in lecture presentations, or upload to Canvas.FindIt provides guidance as to the key terms and conditions of each licence via the icon.  Clicking on the icon will reveal a pop up box as in the example below.

'I' Licence information icon that is displayed on FindIt

The licence information displayed explains the main permitted uses.

An image showing the information that is displayed when the 'I' Licence Information icon is clicked.  The image shows; Licences Notes. Save a copy:permitted. Print a copy: permitted. CANVAS (VLE)use: yes. Course pack print: permitted. ILL print or fax: PeIf your proposed use is not covered within this window, an alternate method for checking related permissions is via the CLA HE licence. Please visit the CLA HE Licence pages for more information.

Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA)

The University holds a CLA Higher Education (HE) licence which covers photocopying and scanning of certain materials.

Photocopying, scanning or copying by other means of material in copyright is permitted only:

  • as set out in UK legislation;
  • by a licence from the rights holders or their representatives (i.e. the CLA licence); or
  • with permission directly from the rights holder.
This licence has various components and the separate page on photocopying and scanning.

Educational Recording Agency (ERA)

The University holds a licence from the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) which allows staff to record television and radio programmes 'off-air' for use in teaching. The recording can be shown during any class and can also be embedded in Power Point presentations or on Canvas. Although it is quite an extensive licence, it does not cover the recording of all broadcasts. 

The ERA has stated that a 'broadcast' is defined as a transmission for simultaneous and lawful reception by members of the public, i.e. it is not encrypted or encoded and is for general reception, unlike pay per view services. The ERA Licence therefore covers scheduled free to air broadcasts by:

  • BBC television and radio (all channels), plus programmes owned by The Open University;
  • All ITV; 
  • All Channel Four;
  • All Five Television;
  • Discovery Channel;
  • National Geographic.

This means in effect that any programme from these broadcasters may be recorded off-air on University premises or at home without infringing copyright, provided that the re-showing is solely for educational purposes.

Educational establishments that hold an ERA Licence can also access and download content from on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer, 4 on Demand, ITV Player, Demand 5 and Clic (S4C) in a similar way to personal private users. This applies also to podcasts. Please check the specific terms and conditions of the individual service provider for further details.

Recording keeping

A written record needs to be kept of all copying carried out under the licence, for the purpose of monitoring such activity by the ERA. If you make your own recording, please download the proforma for ERA licence returns (Word - 34KB), complete this as appropriate, and then return within fourteen days of the recording to:
University ext 44203

All ERA recordings must be clearly and appropriately labelled. Failure to do so may lead to the licence being withdrawn.

If you make an off-air recording yourself under the licence you need to label the outer case and the tape or disc with the following four items:

  • Date (when the recording was made);
  • Name of the broadcaster;
  • Programme title;
  • The wording ‘This recording is to be used only for educational and  non-commercial purposes under the terms of an ERA Licence’.

All ERA Recordings held in digital formats are required to display an opening credit which must be viewed or listened to before access to the ERA Recording is permitted. This must include the above programme data and the above statement referring to the ERA licence.

The Learning Resources Team in Academic Services can organise having an off-air recording made for you. To find out how to make a booking for an off-air recording of a TV programme, go to the LRAT Equipment Booking Page, login and then select "New Request" under "Off Air Recording" in the left-hand menu, then enter details in the booking form. Note that charges might apply.

Using other recordings

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 allows you to play a commercially purchased video for the purposes of instruction at an educational establishment irrespective of any copyright notices to the contrary.

Further information

For further information please see the ERA website.

NLA Media Access

The University holds a licence from NLA Media Access which permits the making of multiple photocopies of articles appearing in national and many regional newspapers.

The NLA licence allows systematic photocopying for teaching purposes from all of the UK national newspapers (including the London based Evening Standard), and a number of regional newspapers including the following local papers:

  • Birmingham Post
  • Birmingham Evening Mail
  • Sunday Mercury - Birmingham
  • Metro - Birmingham

The licence also covers a number of other newspapers including The Economist, the Times Educational Supplement, the Times Higher Education Supplement and the Times Literary Supplement.

The licence does not cover foreign language newspapers.

The licence permits multiple copying of up to 250 copies of one article or cutting per issue for the purposes of student teaching.

It also includes the copying of graphic material, photographs and advertisements appearing in the newspapers covered by the licence.

See the NLA web site for details.

Note that the making of a single copy of an insubstantial amount of a newspaper should also come under the legal provisions of ‘fair dealing’, when carried out for the purpose of private study or non-commercial research.

Ordnance Survey (OS)

The University holds an Ordnance Survey (OS) Educational Copyright Licence which permits the photocopying of portions of OS maps for educational, research or teaching purposes or any activities connected with education, research or teaching (but for no other purposes).

It also provides access to the Digimap services for staff and students.

All copies should acknowledge the OS and the fact that the source is Crown Copyright.

See the Ordnance Survey website for more information.

Creative Commons (CC)

Creative Commons logo

Creative Commons Licences (CCL) are pre-prepared licences intended to help copyright holders distribute their work, defining how it can be used by others without the need to grant bespoke permissions each time someone wants to use it. 

Creative Commons, a not-for-profit organisation based in the US, has produced a number of model licences which authors can apply ‘as given’ or adapted to their requirements.  The licences contain four main elements:

  • Attribution (BY)- You must credit the licensor of the work.
  • Non Commercial (NC)- You can only use the work for non-commercial purposes
  • No Derivatives (ND)- You may not create adaptations of the work.
  • Share alike (SA)- You may create adaptations of the work, but these must be under the same licence as this work.

These elements then combine to form six licences plus a final CC Zero or public domain licence which purports to waive all rights to the material it is applied to.

  • Attribution-Only (CC-By)
  • Attribution-No-Derivatives (CC-By-ND)
  • Attribution-Non-Commercial No–Derivatives (CC-By-NC-ND)
  • Attribution-Non-Commercial (CC-By-NC)
  • Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike (CC-By-NC-SA)
  • Attribution-Share Alike (CC-By-SA)
  • Public Domain (CC-0)

For a useful overview see Briefing Paper (PDF - 73KB) by JISC Legal.

University of Birmingham staff attaching a Creative Commons licence

University Regulation 3.16 outlines the position regarding the ownership of intellectual property generated in the course of employment at the University. Section 5.4 covers the same where the creator is a registered student.

The University is keen to ensure that neither it nor its employees are denied rights to which they are entitled, or dispose of those rights without due consideration of all circumstances. Even though in law the University has copyright in work produced by its employees in the course of their duties, it actively assists in the publication process and very rarely asserts its ownership of that work. Additionally, in some circumstances the University may intervene in order to prevent an author from compromising through ‘prior publication’ any rights to future patenting that may be jointly shared.

There may be circumstances when releasing material under a CC licence is appropriate.  Providing that you own the copyright in ALL of the material contained in a work, you should consult the Creative Commons website for full details.  Aspects to consider include the licence to be applied and how you would like to be attributed in the copyright statement, including your association to the University. 

Once you have decided on a licence type please contact for a final review before you release the material as we may be able to offer advice and guidance.  

Open Access publication

Open Access (OA) publications often use a CCL laying out the terms under which material may be re-used.  Authors retain ownership, any moral rights and must also be credited. Equally, if you wish to include someone else’s OA material in your teaching materials or publications, the applicable CCL will clarify your options.

Research funding councils within their OA policies will often specify which CCL is to be used on outputs arising from the funded research.  Similarly, journals will often have OA policies covering publication.

For more information including funder OA policies please see the ‘Disseminating Your Research’ section.