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Copyright: Using Copyrighted Material

Copyright procedures & guidelines at University of Pretoria, Department of Library Services.

Using Copyrighted Material


  • Most online content is protected by Copyright
  • Always assume that online content is protected - unless you know otherwise
  • If you use unauthorized content, don’t be surprised if you get an email or takedown notice from the rights owner (source:
  • If you are including any Copyright material in research reports, theses or dissertations which will be placed on an institutional repository, e.g. UPSpace, then you will need to clear Copyright for all those Copyright items, before submitting for examination. 
  • If using a Creative Commons license or other open source license, always apply the conditions of the license
  • If using others' photographs, videos, films, images, etc. online, remember to get permission - also consider privacy issues before uploading them.
  • If using free material, make sure it is free (sometimes it picks up the word 'free' in a search, or it was free and is no longer free).
  • Check the Copyright conditions on the webpage (usually on the homepage) - there is usually a link to 'Copyright' or 'terms of use' or 'conditions of use'

When in doubt, rather ask for permission, especially if your work will be made available on the Web via a website, blog, e-book, e-journal, institutional repository or ETD database, etc.

It is the responsibility of the researcher/student to apply for Copyright clearance for Copyright material included in a thesis or dissertation.

N.B. Copyright clearance can take a long time and even cost money, therefore it is important that applications are done in time to avoid delays.

Acknowledgement is given to the University of the Witwatersrand, Scholarly Communications & Copyright Services Office, 1 Jan Smuts Avenue, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2013.

May a lecturer or learner copy material for teaching/educational purposes?

According to section 13 of the Copyright Act, in a classroom setting, a lecturer is free to distribute a small number of separate or single handouts to students without having to get permission. The copies, however, cannot be distributed alongside other copyrighted materials or incorporated in compilations (such as study packs or course packs). In order to teach, prepare for teaching, or do research, a student may make one copy at the teacher's request.


There are numerous publications and digital works that provide unrestricted replication for educational or other non-commercial uses. You would need to check the copyright notices inside the printed publications or read the copyright notices on websites.