Information Services

Copyright in Teaching

It is a common misconception that there is an “exception” to copyright for educational purposes. In fact “fair dealing” only covers non-commercial research or study, criticism or review, or for the reporting of current events, but this does not extend to making copies of texts for students to use in the classroom, for example.

This section will look at the different types of content you may wish to use in your teaching materials, and provide guidance  to help you  develop high-quality teaching materials without infringing UK copyright law.

If you can’t find the answer that you’re looking for, or if you want further help, please contact us.


Teaching Materials

Who owns the copyright of my teaching materials?

According to employment law in the UK, your employer, in this case the University, is the first owner of the rights of any work made in the course of your employment, unless you’ve made an agreement to the contrary.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure copyright compliance?

Responsibility for any infringement of copyright rests with the person making the copy. Although the University has a responsibility to ensure that staff and students are aware of copyright and comply with the law, it remains the responsibility of the person making the copy to ensure they do not infringe copyright. Guidelines and notices are available in all libraries (next to photocopiers) explaining the current regulations.

What are the potential risks of copyright infringement?

For you:

  • having to remove and/or re-work teaching materials
  • reputational damage within the University and broader community
  • financial penalties
  • possible breach of employment contract leading to disciplinary proceedings

For the institution:

  • removal of an entire resource
  • publishers restricting access to resources
  • financial penalties
  • reputational damage

Can I use material produced by my students without their permission?

No. In accordance with our IP policy students have full ownership and copyright over their own work. If you wish to re-use material produced by your students you must seek their permission.

If I email an artist and ask for their permission to use materials from their website and they don't respond, can I use it anyway?

No.  Try sending a follow-up email, make a telephone call (if possible). 

Always make it clear in your request where you will be using the material and for what purpose. E.g. in a closed authenticated teaching space, or in an open public arena such as a publicly accessible webpage or open course (e.g. MOOC). Alternately, try to find materials that are out of copyright protection, in the Public Domain, or have been released under an open licence.


Open Licensed Content

The University has an Open Educational Resources (OER) policy that encourages staff and students to use and share open licensed content including OERs, and Creative Commons licensed images and media. 

Open educational resources enhance the quality of the student experience, contribute to the provision of learning opportunities for all, and improve teaching practices. The use, creation, and publication of open educational resources is consistent with the University's reputation, values, and mission to "make a significant sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK, and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing".

The OER Service provides advice and guidance to staff and students on finding, creating, and using open licensed content, and understanding open licences.

Go to the OER Service webpages

Further Resources

Edinburgh ERA Licence

E-reserve Service

OER Service


Open Education Resources Service

Contact details

Scholarly Communications Team

Contact details



Information Services
Floor F East, Argyle House
3 Lady Lawson Street

Post Code


  • You can book a one-to one video consultation with an expert from our team. If you want to find out more about open access (journals, funding, policies etc ), Copyright & Intellectual Property, General publishing activities (request an ISBN or DOI), or research metrics (using Web Of Science or Scopus) please contact our team via email to book a session at a time that suits you.

This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. For further information please contact: