Copyright matters for students


The Internet

The Web is not a copyright free zone.

The Copyright Act applies to digital material as much as to hard copy material. A web site may include works such as text and graphics, music, software, film, and so on. All of these may have separate copyright owners.

Many sites invite you to copy their documents by offering a pdf or other print-friendly download; these items are still protected by copyright and are usually only made available to you for your own personal use e.g not for reposting on another website.

You can usually rely on the Copyright Act's provision 'fair dealing for the purposes of research and study'  to copy content - images etc. - from a website when you are creating a piece of work for an assignment or tutorial presentation.

  • However, you can not then use that work for any other purpose: e.g. publication - especially online - or in an employment portfolio etc., without the copyright owner's permission (as these are no longer fair dealing ‘purposes’).

A significant number of websites now use Creative Commons licences on their work; the works are still protected by copyright, but the owners have chosen to make them more freely and easily available for other people to use in the various ways expressed in each licence.

Wikimedia  is an especially useful collection of Creative Commons licensed images; you will find more collections of images, AV, and other content on the Creative Commons & other copyright-friendly materials page.