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SP Library

Copyright Guide: FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: I am not copying for profit. Is there infringement? 

There can still be infringement even if you are not copying for profit. Whether there is infringement depends on first, if there is substantial taking of the copyright work without the owner’s consent and second, if your act is covered by one of the exceptions, defences or statutory licences under the Copyright Act.

To be prudent, where you are copying in the course of your work in SP, you should always strive to work within the statutory limits for copying afforded to educational institutions. 

Q2: Is scanning copying? 

Yes. In deciding whether there is copying, the key consideration is whether the work has been reproduced. Reproduction can take the form of digitizing, scanning, storing the data in a computer or other methods of reproduction. Converting the copyright material from one medium to another does not by itself protect against infringement.

Q3: Can I copy just a page or two?

The key consideration is whether the copying involved a substantial taking. Even small amounts of copying can be substantial.

Q4: Is there infringement in modification? 

Even if you modify the copyright material, you may still be infringing copyright if your modification involves a substantial taking of the copyright material. 

Q5: I cannot locate the copyright owner to seek his permission to use his work. Can I use his work without the risk of infringement?

No. If copyright still subsists in that article or material, you have to get permission to copy unless you have a defence in law.

Q6: Can I copy works where there is no © sign on it marking copyright? 

No. Copyright subsists in an original work whether or not the © sign is present.

Q7: I acknowledged the source. Can there still be infringement? 

There is no magic protection derived from acknowledging the source.

Q8: Can there be infringement if I copy to promote the copyright work? 

Again, there is no magic protection derived from promoting the copyright work if you do not have permission from the owner to use the work. 

Q9: I have permission from one of the creators. Does it mean I am safe from an infringement suit?

No. For some copyright material there may be composite rights. For example, in a CD ROM or a video recording, the text or script may be written by an author, the graphics created by a graphic artist, the images filmed by a photographer, and if there is accompanying music, the sound may be created by a person other than the author. You have to get the permission of all the creators unless the person from whom you obtained permission has the legal authority to give permission on behalf of the others. An author may also assign his copyright to someone else. In such a case you need permission from that person instead.

Q10: Am I liable for acts of copyright infringement by my students?  

Such a possibility is present if there was infringement by authorisation. 

Q11: Must I obtain permission from students if I wish to disseminate their work to other teachers or students for learning purposes? 

The intellectual property rights arising from works created by students in the course of their studies with SP belong to the school. (For more details, please refer to SP Student handbook.) 

Q12: How do I know if there has been “substantial taking”? 

Whether there has been “substantial taking” is a question of fact, answered by looking into not just the quantity but also the quality of the work taken. Please refer to 4.Permissible Copying for further details.

Q13: Can I reproduce copyright material by writing or drawing it out on the board during class?

Yes, such non-reprographic reproduction is allowed where the copying is done by a person conducting (or undergoing) the course of education, for the purpose of the course. 

Q14: Can I use questions from reference books in the course examinations?

Yes, the use of copyright materials for the purposes of an examination shall not constitute infringement. No consent or recording is necessary. 

Q15: Can I use or play music CDs in class or at a school function?

You are free to play instrumental music, as long as it is done in the school premises or elsewhere in the presence of an audience and in the course of activities of the school. However, if the music entails lyrics, it can only be played where the audience is limited to students or persons directly connected with the school, including the parents, guardians, or siblings of the students.

 Permission will be required from the copyright owner otherwise. If in doubt, please contact the school library. 

Q16: Can I incorporate a movie or news clip into my teaching materials?

Such use, where for criticism or review, and with sufficient acknowledgment, does not constitute copyright infringement. It may also be considered fair dealing for the purpose of research and study.

 There is also no infringement where such copying is done in the course of instruction and done by a lecturer. 

Q17: Can I use materials from software that I have purchased as part of my course materials?

You should always look at the terms and conditions, which will tell you the parameters of your software licence.

Q18: If I collate a series of hyperlinks as references for class reading materials and send them to other lecturers, is this considered copyright infringement? 

Sending/posting hyperlinks to copyrighted material such that other parties can access the material directly from the source is not considered as copying. There is hence no copyright infringement. 

Q19: Can I include a hyperlink to an online video in my lesson slides? I intend to click on the link during my class presentation and screen the video during the lesson for my students. Do I have to make a record or declaration to the school?

Please see the answer to question 18 above. There is no need to make a record or declaration to the school in such a situation. 

Q20: Is there infringement if I use images I find from open sources (whether online or otherwise) in lesson slides or teaching material as examples for students? 

Such use constitutes copying. However, whether there is infringement would depend on, most of all, the terms and conditions of use. Where in doubt, you should refrain from using the image, or contact the copyright owner to seek permission.

In addition, a record should also be made in the Copyright Database. 

Q21: Are students allowed to use images taken from research databases to which SP subscribes (for example, Britannica) during their internships in presentations to external parties such as clients, or in their portfolios, to be showcased to future employers? 

Under the terms and conditions of use, SP’s subscribed e-resources are for personal research, teaching, academic and non-commercial purposes only. For more details, please refer to

Q22: Is there copyright infringement if I compile text from different textbooks into a new set of reference materials for my students? 

Whether there is copyright infringement in such an instance would depend on whether the copying involved a substantial taking. In deciding what is “substantial taking”, please note it is both a quantity and quality issue.

Q23: Would it be infringement if I embed videos on the Blackboard, given that access is restricted to authorised students only?

The issue of whether there is infringement by embedding videos on a website is somewhat of a grey area in Singapore. Whilst limiting access to the website (and the video) does not negate the copyright to the videos, it does allow you to seek protection under the exception given to educational institutions, where copying is done in the course of instruction and by a person giving or receiving instruction.

Regardless, you should still refer to the terms of use. In the case of YouTube, its terms of use allow access through embeddable player, subject to certain conditions: 

“4. F.  If you use the Embeddable Player on your website, you may not modify, build upon, or block any portion or functionality of the Embeddable Player, including but not limited to links back to the YouTube website.”

Q24: Is there a difference between copying to teaching slides which are presented in class and Slideshare, which is available and accessible to all with URL on the World Wide Web?

The exceptions provided for under the Copyright Act for educational institutions may be available to you where you are copying to teaching slides which are presented in class, but not if the material is accessible to the general public (although the fair use defence may be applicable). 

Do remember to make the required record or declaration in the Copyright Database.

Q25: Can I annotate YouTube videos to guide students as they watch the videos for pre-class assignment?

This may be done if it is for the purpose of criticism or review, or where it is for research and study. However, to fall under the exceptions for educational institutions prescribed under the Copyright Act, such copying should only be done by you as a person giving instruction, and in the course of instruction. 

Q26: Am I allowed to mesh several YouTube videos to produce an interactive video? Must this be declared? 

This may be done if it is for the purpose of criticism or review, or where it is for research and study. However, to fall under the exceptions for educational institutions prescribed under the Copyright Act, such copying should only be done by you as a person giving instruction, and in the course of instruction.

If you are unsure, seek consent from the copyright owner or clarification from the library.

Under SP’s policy, as long as copyright material is adopted/reproduced and shared, a record should be made, unless the material’s terms and conditions of use provide that the work can be freely used. 

Q27: Can I stream YouTube videos on the Blackboard? 

There is no blanket rule in relation to the use or reproduction of YouTube videos. YouTube is just a delivery platform and should not be taken to own the copyright of the video in question. You should always check the terms and conditions of use or obtain consent from the owner of the copyright (generally the maker of the video).

Q28: Is there a need for any recording or declaration when I note down certain academic principles or ideas from textbooks and articles in a presentation slides and share the slides with staff/students?

No, there is no need for any recording or declaration as there is no copying in such a situation.

Q29: Do I have to make a declaration or record if I paraphrase the material from a copyright work? 

There is no copying if you have put the ideas in the source copyright work into your own words. However, if you are unsure, you should always err on the side of caution. Ensure that you have copied only within the allowed parameters and make a record in the Copyright Database.

Q30: Do we need to declare the use of copyrighted material every semester even when there are no new additions to the course notes?

Yes, each set of course notes should be recorded as a new entry in the Copyright Database each time the copied content is made available to a new group of students in subsequent semesters.

Q31: How do I know which Form (A or B) to use if I intend to rely on section 52 of the Copyright Act?

As a general guide, the decision should be made based on the type of work (article in a periodical publication, literary, dramatic, artistic, musical work) copied, and not based on the media format that it takes (print/electronic).

Q32: Must I make a record if I copy content from SP’s subscribed resources?

Under SP’s policy, recording is required when multiple copies of a copyright material have been made for distribution to students.

Q33: How do I decide the number of copies to input when I post a scanned copy of an article on the Blackboard?

You should base the number of copies made on the number of students enrolled in the module in question, or on the number of users who have access to the scanned article on the Blackboard.

Q34: Can I edit the record after submission in the event of a mistake?

No, you will not be able to edit the record once it is submitted. However, you can enter a new record and make a request to the library to delete the earlier erroneous one from the Copyright Database.

Q35: Checklist #1 says that "Every copy made must incorporate this notation: MADE ON BEHALF OF SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC. DATE: __________ “. Must this be done for electronic copies as well?

Yes, this is a requirement under the school policy. 

Q36: How do I know whether Checklist #1 or Checklist #2 applies?

It depends on the circumstances of your copying (or communication).

If the work in question is a literary or dramatic work, and the copying (or communication) is done on SP’s premises for the purpose of a course of education provided by SP, Checklist #1 applies.

If the work in question is a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (excluding articles within a periodical publication), and the copying (or communication) is carried out by you on behalf of SP for SP or another educational institution’s educational purposes, Checklist #2 applies.  

Q37: How often must I update the Copyright Database?  

The Copyright Database should be updated whenever copied content (whether in the electronic or print media) is made available to a new group of students. If any copying is done for students in the middle of the semester, a record should be made within 2 day of the copying.

Q38: For a module that has multiple sources of reference, do I need to create a corresponding number of declarations?


Q39: Are there any simpler SP staff guidelines to follow?  

These guidelines are already simplified. 

Q40: Certain textbooks come with teaching slides, which I can download from the publishers’ websites. Can I disseminate these slides to the students? If so, must I make a record in the school Copyright Database? 

Whether dissemination to students is allowed depends on the terms and conditions of the licence between the publishers and the school.  

Q41: Must I still make a record if I make multiple copies of less than 5% of the source content?

For prudence, please make a record regardless. 

Q42: Are there any copyright issues if I were to download a YouTube video using a YouTube downloader and then share this downloaded video with my teaching team?

Downloading a YouTube video appears to be specifically prohibited by the YouTube Terms of Service, which states that the user shall not “download any Content unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content” or “copy, reproduce, distribute… display… for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content”.  

We further understand that the YouTube Downloader is a third party software application and it does not belong to YouTube LLC. Please see where there is a disclaimer that it is not associated with As such, using the YouTube downloader to download content from is prohibited by the terms and conditions.  

In this regard, where there is a need to create awareness on certain YouTube content, even for educational purposes, lecturers should refrain from downloading and consider sharing the YouTube link instead.  

Q43: Can I screen a DVD (feature film) to students for teaching purposes?

Screening or playing of a cinematograph film by staff or student of an education institution is permissible if the following conditions are met:

(i) The screening or playing of the film is done within the premises of the education institution;

(ii) Such activity is in the course of activities of the education institution which includes review and criticism;

(iii) The audience is limited to person who are taking part in the instruction or are otherwise directly connected with the place where the instruction is given; and

(iv) There should be sufficient acknowledgment of the audio-visual item.

Q44: Staff have copied Creative Commons materials under different types of Creative Commons licences, e.g., Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike, and incorporated them into their course content. Do they need to submit s52 records in the Copyright database?

It is important to consider the terms of use of the Creative Commons licence. If the copying or use of the Creative Commons materials (the “Materials”) by staff is within the scope of the particular Creative Commons licence, SP would not have to satisfy the requirements under s52 of the Copyright Act i.e. notation and record-keeping. This is because the Creative Commons licence effectively gives SP the right to use the Materials in the ways and to the extent specified in the licence.

Staff should be careful to ensure that their use of such Materials does not fall outside the scope of the particular Creative Commons licence. For instance, if the particular Creative Commons licence prohibits the use of the Materials commercially, staff should not be selling notes that incorporate the Materials.