Information Services

Books, Journals, and Texts

 Guidance on these pages has been designed to help you to develop quality teaching materials without adding to your already busy workload.

Most text-based material used in your teaching is likely to be subject to copyright restrictions. This includes photocopying or downloading material such as book chapters, journal articles or extracts of text.

The University has a Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) licence that covers the photocopying and scanning of most UK publications, and some US and international publishers.

It allows:

  • multiple photocopies of limited extracts from copyright protected printed books, journals and magazines
  • digital copies of limited extracts from copyright protected printed books, journals and magazines

There are also exceptions within the law that can allow you to use text in your teaching materials. 

Copyright Exception and Fair Dealing exceptions exist for a number of exceptions including criticism and review, illustration for instruction and quotation.

Can I upload PDFs of papers to share with students on Learn or Moodle?

No, you should not upload PDFs of papers directly to any online teaching space. 

The University of Edinburgh has a comprehensive CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) Licence, which allows copies of many texts to be made by named, authorised individuals for the purposes of teaching certain courses. These copies must be reported, and so the library manages the use of this licence by providing the E-Reserve service. Book chapters and journal articles can be scanned, and the digitised copy then linked to your online teaching spaces. Digitisations and articles can also be requested via the Resource List service.

If the PDF is from an e-journal article available through the library:

  • You can link to the web page where the article is available, again either within your online teaching space, or in a Resource List. Linking to the subscribed article does not infringe copyright as your students would still need to login using their EASE details to access the article.
  • In exceptional circumstances, e.g. where it may be difficult to access a particular online journal, you can submit a digitisation request which will create a link to the PDF, which can be added to your online teaching space, or if it is a reading list item, via your Resource List.

Can I photocopy an article for each member of my class?

Yes, this is allowed under the terms of our CLA licence. You can put several items together in a course pack, but you should seek guidance if you plan to copy a significant number of chapters in this way: the CLA regard this as an attempt to recreate a textbook, which is not permitted under the terms of the licence. The Library would prefer it if you asked for items to be digitised rather than photocopied. You can find information about digitisation services on the E-reserve service pages.

How do I request an item to be digitised?

You can submit digitisation requests directly to the E-reserve service by completing and sending a submission form through to their team. Digitisations and articles can also be requested via the Resource List service.

Under the terms of the CLA licence, one chapter from a book, one article from a journal/magazine issue (or 10%, whichever is greater) can be digitised or copied in support of any one course module. Only in certain circumstances can this limit be exceeded, for example if the different chapters/articles are being digitised in support of different course modules.

On receiving your request for digitised material to be supplied to your students, the Library will:

  • check that the material is covered by the licence, and inform you if it is not
  • check that we own a copy or can order a copyright-cleared copy from the British Library
  • retrieve the item(s) from stock (or acquire a copy if necessary)
  • arrange for the item(s) to be scanned and converted to PDF format

The following cannot be digitised under the CLA Higher Education Licence:

Can I upload Open Access (OA) articles to Learn or Moodle?

We would recommend linking to an OA article (using a DOI if possible), rather than uploading it as a PDF to Learn or Moodle. This means that you don’t need to spend time working out which licence a paper has been published under to do this. If you really want to upload PDFs of OA articles to your online teaching space, the onus is on you to make sure that the article is under an open licence or is in the Public Domain. 

Some Open Access articles will be published under the publisher's own licences that are equivalent to CC licences. This can make checking the licence terms time consuming and tricky, so linking out to a paper is often easier.

The Directory of Open Access Journals includes a filter option for articles under Creative Commons licences.


Further Resources

Edinburgh ERA Licence

E-reserve Service

OER Service

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

Open Education Resources Service

Contact details

Scholarly Communications Team

Contact details



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  • 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.

Information on this page has been adapted from Copyright Guidance at The University of Manchester, CC BY-NC