Using copyright material
Many everyday school activities involve using copyright material. Web pages, audio books, stock images and teaching resources are all examples of material that may be protected by copyright. Teachers and other school staff use copyright material when downloading, scanning, photocopying, saving to drive or learning management system (LMS), taking screen captures, performing material and screening films.
All of these uses involve copyright. In general, copyright materials can only be used in the ways that the owner specifies.
Teachers’ use of copyright material
Teachers may copy material if:
- it is owned by the Department or another Victorian government department
- it is covered under a Creative Commons licence
- a statutory exception applies, such as fair dealing
- copyright has expired (generally 70 years after the death of the author)
- permission has been obtained from the copyright owner — refer to the Resources tab for a (login required)
- one of the education licences held by the Department permits the intended use.
The following information is an introduction to topics covered in detail on the schools’ Smartcopying website, which is the official and primary source of guidance about educational uses of copyright material in Australian schools.
The education licences
Many everyday uses of copyright material in schools are covered under a collection of five licences, referred to as the education licences. Generally, these licences apply only to schools' internal uses of copyright material. The education licences make it easy for schools to use copyright material without having to obtain the copyright owner’s direct permission.
The following table sets out the 5 education licences held by the Department in relation to copyright material.
The Department pays an annual fee for each of the copyright licences. The fees go to the copyright collecting societies who then distribute the fees as royalty payments to their members, the copyright holders.
Occasionally, but no more than once every eight years, a school may be required to participate in a copyright survey. Participation is an obligation under the education licences. The purpose of the surveys is to collect a sample of works that are copied for educational purposes. The sample data is used to identify copyright owners so they can be paid for the use of their work.
When using copyright material under the terms of the copyright licences, the creator and source should be attributed whenever it is reasonable to do so. This helps identify works copied during the copyright surveys.
Teachers may also rely on copyright exceptions to use material without permission, for example, when copying for exams, writing material on a whiteboard, performing or communicating material in a classroom, or in some circumstances where none of the education licences apply. Visit for more details.
Licences for schools' non-educational uses of copyright material
Fundraising activities that rely on the use of copyright works are outside the scope of the education licences. A direct ‘one-off’ licence may be available through the copyright owner’s collecting society. (See table above)
Attributing copyright material belonging to others
Material not created by school staff or the Department is referred to as third party material. Schools are advised to attribute third party material whenever reasonable to do so. This is always best practice and in some cases required by licence terms and other rights.
- is the acknowledgment, or crediting, of the original creator of a work
- is usually displayed close to the work, for example, in the caption to a photograph
- includes the work's title, the name of the creator/owner, the source, and notes the terms under which it was copied (for example 'used with permission' or 'licensed under CC BY').
Creators often specify how to attribute their work and these instructions should be followed.
Scenario — using a photo in a classroom activity sheet
A teacher creates a classroom activity sheet for his students which includes a third party image. Permission for this internal educational use is covered under the Text and Artistic Licence. The teacher should attribute the photographer, for example, BarbDwire66, Alpha Stock Images, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Students and copyright
Library warning notice
Schools must display copyright warning notices near photocopiers, printers, scanners and devices that are used by students to copy content. These notices protect schools from liability for copyright infringements when students use these machines.
Copyright in material created by students
Students hold copyright as creators of their own work. Permission must be obtained before using student intellectual property outside of ordinary internal educational purposes, for example, when uploading student artwork to a school website. To seek permission, use the (login required).
Reviewed 19 March 2021