FAQ – Using Copyrighted Materials in Class

Q1: Can I use images from Google Image Search in my class presentations or homework assignments?

Just because an image is accessible online and is not copy protected by technical means does not mean that you can use it without obtaining the consent of the copyright owner. An image found using the Google Image search page is an artistic work which would enjoy copyright protection.

Whether the image can be used in class presentations or homework assignments depends on whether copyright continues to subsist in the artistic work, or if copyright subsists, whether the terms of use allow for copying for the intended purpose.

Before you use the image, it would be prudent to check who:

  • the copyright owner is;
  • whether the copyright has expired;
  • whether there is any licence granted for the use of the image; and if so,
  • what the terms of use of the image are.

For works whose copyright has expired, there would not be any issue with using these images.

Some copyright owners allow others to reproduce their images, subject to certain conditions (for example, non-commercial use only and with attribution to the copyright owner). If such a licence has been granted, it would be possible to use these images in your presentations and assignments if your use complies with the terms and conditions of the licence.

On the other hand, if copyright subsists in the image and the owner has not granted any licence to use his work, the reproduction of the image would likely amount to infringement even if the images reproduced are intended for use in class presentations or homework assignment, unless the class presentation or assignment involves the critique or review of the image.

In such a situation, it is possible that the fair dealing defence for the purpose of criticism or review may apply. To come within the ambit of this defence, the dealing must involve some element of evaluation or judgment made on the merits of the work. However, sufficient acknowledgment of the work must be made in order to rely on this defence.

It may, however, be difficult to rely on the general fair dealing defence since the amount and substantiality of the part copied is one of the key factors that the Court considers. While the Court will also consider other factors such as whether the dealing was for non-commercial educational purposes, there is still a risk that the defence may not apply.

On the practical side of things however, copyright owners are unlikely to enforce their rights for infringement of copyrights if the pictures are used for one-off, non-commercial purposes (where no profits have been derived from the use of such pictures by the user), so the risk of facing an infringement claim would be relatively low. As such, you must decide on balance, whether to use the image for purposes of your presentation, bearing in mind the potential risks of infringement claims that you may face.

Q2: Can I save or download a copy of a YouTube video to play during tutorials?

Copyright subsists in YouTube videos as a cinematograph film. Under Section 83, the owner of the copyright of a cinematograph film has the exclusive right to make a copy of the film, to cause the film to be seen in public and to communicate the film to the public.

The act of saving or downloading a YouTube video would amount to making a copy of the film and accordingly, would amount to copyright infringement, unless the copyright owner has consented to the downloading. Instead of saving or downloading a copy of the YouTube video, what you can do is to use a URL link to open the YouTube video in a web browser instead.

As to whether YouTube videos can be shown during tutorials, causing a cinematograph film to be seen in public without the permission of the copyright owner would ordinarily constitute an infringement of the copyright in the cinematograph film.

However, under Section 23 of the Copyright Act, where a cinematograph film is caused to be seen by the students or staff of an educational institution in the course of the activities of the institution, this would not be deemed to be causing the film to be seen in public if the audience is limited to persons who are taking part in the instruction or are otherwise directly connected with the place where instruction is given.

Q3: Can I insert a music track into the slides of my PowerPoint presentation?

If you are a student or staff of NTU and the powerpoint presentation is given on NTU’s premises and as part of an educational course, the use of a music track in your powerpoint presentation will be deemed to be a non-public performance under Section 23(1) of the Copyright Act, and as such, will not infringe the copyright. This is provided however, that the presentation done in the course of the activities of NTU.

Q4: Can I simply just use a quote from another literary work such as a book or poem in my term report?

You can use the quote if the amount of text copied is not a substantial amount and falls within the limits of a reasonable portion as described in Using Copyrighted Material. Copying in excess of this amount may amount to copyright infringement unless one of the fair dealing defences applies.

Do note, however, that copyright infringement is distinct from plagiarism. Students are advised to review NTU’s Academic Integrity Policy and to comply with the relevant acknowledgement/attribution requirements.

Q5: Can I create a sketch based on a copyrighted image, a sculpture, or even a building?

Yes, if the sketch is done for the purpose of education and done via a non-reprographic method such as drawing by hand. This also extends to sketches or drawings of buildings and sculptures. In any event, under Section 64 of the Copyright Act, the copyright in a building is not infringed by making a drawing of the building.

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