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How to…comply with copyright when making readings available via the Bloomsbury Learning Environment

Note – these rules apply for the 2013-14 academic session. There are some changes to the procedures that applied last year.

Printing collections of photocopied articles and book chapters for your students can be expensive and damaging to the environment. Increasingly students want, and expect, to access course material online. SOAS provides the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) for this purpose. However, there are limitations on what you are allowed to digitise, and legal reporting requirements. Here’s what you need to do to ensure that the material used in your modules is compliant with the rules.


As this is the beginning of a new agreement period with the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), this year we are asking all course convenors using the BLE to let us know about ALL texts they are using, not just new texts. This will ensure that our annual reporting is as accurate as possible.

1. Make sure you’re on the list of designated staff who are registered to carry out scanning.

If it is the first time you will be scanning a text for use on the BLE, you will need to print off and follow the instructions on this registration form.

2. Review your modules on the BLE every year.

Before the start of each academic year, review the readings you use in your modules. If you will not be running a course, make sure that you delete all copies of the scanned readings, both from the BLE and anywhere else that you retain a copy. If you are running the course again, but will not be using any of the readings, similarly delete these.

3. Identify the texts that you want to use for each of your modules.
4. Check whether they are covered by the Copyright Licensing Agency’s (CLA) Licence.

The CLA provides guidance at http://he.cla.co.uk/complying-with-your-licence/what-can-be-copied/ and http://he.cla.co.uk/complying-with-your-licence/what-cant-be-copied-2/ which explains what you are – and aren’t - allowed to copy.

As a rule of thumb, books or journals published in the UK can be scanned, but coverage in other countries is patchier. You can use the CLA’s title search system (http://he.cla.co.uk/complying-with-your-licence/what-can-be-copied/title-search/ ) to find out whether the book or journal is covered by the licence. If it doesn’t look like you can use the text, there is some advice at the bottom of this guide as to alternative options (and also see the CLA’s advice at http://he.cla.co.uk/complying-with-your-licence/what-cant-be-copied-2/ ).

NB: some US texts are now no longer covered by the licence. Make sure you check any texts you’ve used in previous years to make sure that they are still covered.

Reproducing electronic versions of texts – the new licence allows copies of texts that are already in electronic form, eg on an external website or in an e-journal in some circumstances. However, for journals, this will depend on whether we subscribe to a journal and what terms we subscribe under. For articles on an external website, you will need to check what terms and conditions the website makes documents available under. In most cases you are advised to just provide a link to the document or journal article as this will avoid possible problems.

5. Make sure that SOAS owns a copy.

You can’t scan the text for use in teaching if SOAS doesn’t own it – even if you personally have a copy. Check the Library catalogue.
NB: you must use the latest edition of a book unless there is a very good reason (eg the text you want to use doesn’t appear in the latest version). Check that the Library holds the most recent edition/version, and if not, ask them to order a copy. If they do hold a copy, make sure you use the most recent version.

6. How big is the text?

You’re only allowed to scan in one chapter, article or other item in a volume, or 5% -  whichever is greater for each course module (if you will be using the same text for several courses, you need to register this with copyright@soas.ac.uk). If the chapter makes up a large proportion of the book that is unlikely to be allowed. If you want your students to read more than that, you should be asking the Library to order enough copies for students to borrow it rather than scanning it.

NB: avoid textbook substitution – ie eliminating the need for students to purchase a standard textbook on the subject by covering the same topics with the range of readings provided.

7. For new texts, make sure you complete the cover sheet before scanning. 

Make sure that the cover sheet is placed at the front of the text, so that it is the first thing that your students will see when they open the document.

8. Submit a completed digitisation registration form to copyright@soas.ac.uk . 

You provide brief details of your course, and then list all the scanned texts that are in use, including those that you are transferring from last year. You must provide ALL the details requested, including page numbers.

9. Upload newly scanned texts to your BLE module.
10. You need to let copyright@soas.ac.uk know everytime you want to scan a new text for adding to a module. 
Publications not covered by the CLA licence

Sometimes you may want to digitise a text that is not covered by the CLA licence. Reasons why a text may not be covered include:

  • the publication was published in a country not covered by the licence, eg many Asian and African countries;
  • a publisher or author has explicitly said that they don’t want the publication to be scanned;
  • it is a newspaper article – generally speaking you are not allowed to digitise newspaper articles as they are covered by another licence with stricter conditions;
  • it is unpublished (eg archives, manuscripts);
  • it is sheet music or a map;
  • the publication is not covered by copyright as it is too old.

The last of these is not a problem – if it isn’t covered by copyright, you can scan as much as you like (but be sure that it isn’t covered). If a text is available electronically, the best thing to do is to provide a link to the resource so that students can go there themselves. 

If a publication was published in a country not covered by the licence, or the publisher or author has said that they don’t want the publication to be covered by the licence, you could write to the publisher or author to request permission to reproduce the text for teaching purposes (if they grant permission, make sure that you keep a copy of the correspondence authorising this). 

If you want to scan an article from a newspaper, consider providing a link to the relevant article online if possible. Seek advice from the source of unpublished material (eg Record Office, archive) – it may be able to authorise publication/explain how to apply for permission to reproduce the document. 

Copyright law itself provides some provision for teaching, and this may provide alternative justification for digitising texts not covered by the CLA licence. 

The good news if something isn’t covered by the CLA licence is that you don’t need to register your use of the material with copyright@soas.ac.uk – so no forms to fill in!