Copyright in schools


The topic of copyright in schools can be a confusing one for school staff. Whether it is photocopying printed materials and texts or using songs or video clips in a school production.

GOV.UK explains that the Department for Education (DfE) buys copyright licences for all state-funded primary and secondary schools in England – covering schools for almost all their copyright requirements.

The licences mean you can copy, re-use and share content from a wide range of sources within your school for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Your school leadership (head and chair of governors) needs to make sure that:

  • All intended activities are covered adequately by the licences
  • All staff follow the terms and conditions

Educational establishments covered by the DfE scheme are:

  • Local-authority-maintained schools (including maintained nurseries)
  • Academies
  • Free schools
  • Special schools (these are schools for children with special educational needs or disabilities)
  • Non-maintained special schools
  • Pupil referral units (these provide education for children who can’t attend a mainstream school)

Educational establishments not covered by the DfE scheme are:

  • Sixth-form colleges
  • Local-authority-maintained schools that provide only for 16- to 19-year-olds
  • Academies that provide only for 16- to 19-year-olds
  • Independent fee-paying schools

Independent fee-paying schools can obtain information from the Independent Association of Prep Schools or the Centre for Education and Finance Management.

In the majority of instances, as a member of school staff, there is nothing to be overly concerned about. However, if you are concerned about copy infringement we include further information below.

The DfE has published a list of organisation below you can contact if unsure about copyright uses:

The DfE encourages schools to make the best use of these licences. For example, the Educational Recording Agency offers links to broadcast resources and provides a collection of case studies showing how teachers use television and radio effectively in their lessons.

The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society licence allows schools to make recordings of student performances and sell copies to generate income.

The licences don’t cover:

  • Images on websites, unless the website is covered by the CLA or NLA Media Access – you can check using CLA’s Check Permissions tool
  • Content accessed directly from YouTube
  • Some extracurricular activities, for example showing films to a paying audience; please contact the relevant organisation

The CLA’s Check Permissions tool enables you to check whether you can copy from a particular publication under the terms of the CLA and NLA Media Access licences.

(Remember that images copied under these licences are covered for internal distribution within the school, but not for sharing on a public facing website.)

It also helps you to check whether you can copy from a particular publication under the terms of the Schools Printed Music Licence.

You can also use the CLA’s Education Platform if your school is covered by the CLA Education Licence. The platform provides access to digital versions of books, allowing you to copy and share a portion of each book you or your school owns.

If you are an Edapt subscriber and you have been alleged of copyright infringement at your school you can contact us for further advice and support.

Further reading:

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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