Masterclass - Licensing - Copies and robbers

28th August 2009 at 01:00
It's easy to fall foul of copyright laws during lessons and end up the bad guy. Catherine Allan explains how to keep things legal

It's all too easy to dash off a few copies of teaching materials just before a lesson or school activity, but make sure your quick fixes don't fall foul of the law. Schools need to make sure they are covered by several different licences.

If you plan to copy extracts from books, journals or magazines, your school needs a licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd. Each licence runs for 12 months and is usually available from your local authority, since many authorities act as CLA agents.

It covers photocopying for pupils and digital copying for use on a closed network within a school, for example, a virtual learning environment (VLE) or the school intranet. It also covers making an accessible copy for a disabled pupil but does not cover the copying of sheet music.

Schools need a regular TV licence to watch any material being broadcast on television, or to record programmes for watching later. It makes no difference what equipment you use - whether it's a laptop, PC, mobile phone, digital box, DVD recorder or TV.

A single licence covers any television sets on the premises but if a school operates from more than one site, it will need one for each. The licence is normally bought in the headteacher's name under the school's address.

A licence is not required to watch video clips on the internet, as long as the content is "not being shown on TV at the same time as you are viewing it". Therefore, watching a programme on the BBC iPlayer at the same time as the show is being broadcast would need a licence, but watching a clip on YouTube would not.

Schools wishing to record and play back radio and television programmes for educational purposes also need to be covered by an Educational Recording Agency licence. This applies if you want to store them on an internal system, such as an intranet, for the use of pupils. This licence is usually granted to the local authority and covers all the schools in its area. You can easily check if yours is covered by calling 020 7837 3222 or emailing

There is no blanket agreement on the licensed use of images in educational establishments. Therefore schools need to apply to the owner of an image for permission before using it unless the use is for the purposes of instruction. It's quite legitimate to have a copy of a famous painting on your classroom wall for discussion, but you should not host an image on your school website without the image owner's permission.

You do not need a licence if you are using a recording of a piece of music or performing it live, purely for the purposes of instruction.

But you must get permission if you wish to use a certain piece of copyrighted music for non-educational purposes such as adding it to the soundtrack of a DVD or video, or on a website you are creating.

Getting permission to use music is relatively simple, and one way is through the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS)-Performing Rights Society (PRS) website. MCPS-PRS has a scheme for "educational use products" and fees are calculated on a case by case basis (

When planning assemblies or concerts remember that the reproduction of hymns and worship songs, for example, by photocopying lyrics or sheet music, requires a licence from Christian Copyright Licensing International. This does not permit the storing of digital copies once a printed version has been made.

And a licence must be obtained from the relevant publisher to perform a musicalopera or to copy printed music. The Music Publishers Association provides information about music publishers at

Finally, a Performing Rights Society licence is required whenever copyrighted music is used in schools in a non-curricular manner. Fortunately, most schools are already covered by PRS licences purchased by their local authorities.

Below are some common types of situations in schools where a PRS licence is required:

- Discosend of term parties

- Carol concerts

- Concerts (not including musicals)

- Telephone systems' music on hold

- Playing a radiotapeCD player

- School fetes (where music is being played)

- Jukebox

- Danceaerobics classes

- TVfilms

- Background music including radios or stereos in common rooms, offices or communal areas.

To check if you are already covered, telephone 01494 473014 for the Centre for Education and Finance Management. You simply need to give your school's name or postcode to get an answer.

Catherine Allan is specialist researcher in administration and management at The Key, an independent service that supports school leaders by providing answers to their questions on all aspects of school leadership and management.

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