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SMU Libraries

Copyright Advisory

Find resources on copyright regulations in Singapore and learn more on making legal and ethical use of copyrighted works

General Questions on Copyright

1. What is “Fair use”?

A "Fair Use" of any work is permitted use of a copyrighted work within the following considerations:

a. when the purpose is for research and study

b. when the copy is made or used for educational purposes of an educational institution

c. no more than a reasonable portion of the work is copied as indicated in the Singapore Copyright Act

d. the use of the copied works is of a non-commercial nature and is for  non-profit educational purposes.

e. The copying activity does not affect the potential market value of the original work

 10% of the works, 1 chapter or 1 article from a periodical are permissible under the guidelines of the Copyright Act


2. If I don’t make money from using someone else’s work, is that an infringement of copyright?

If you are using a significant portion of someone else’s work without permission, you are infringing the rights of the copyright owner, and you may be affecting the potential market value of the original work. In other words, your use of the work may not be a "fair use" . 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, or applicable licenses under the Copyright Act.

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


3. Are images protected under copyright law? What do I need to know about using images in my content / publication / website/ blog?

Copyright covers any and all images in any format, including digital images, unless there is an accompanying license (eg. Creative Commons) that gives a user the rights to reproduce / reuse the images

When you use an image, design or photograph in your publication, website or blog, you are both making a copy of a copyrighted work, as well as communicating it to the public.  According to the Copyright Act, any person who does so without proper authorisation from the copyright owner would be considered to be infringing the copyright in a workTo use images owned by others on your content / publication without violating the law, it is suggested that you:

4. Is scanning copying

Yes. Copying or 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.

5. When do I need to seek copyright clearance for photocopying a resource?

‚ÄčIf you are making one copy of the resource for personal research and study, and the amount copied falls within the limitations set by the law under fair use, educational exceptions or applicable licenses, there is no need to seek copyright clearance. Any other form of use requires copyright clearance or payment of copyright fees. For course packs, users are NOT permitted to reproduce/copy/re-distribute any part of the works in the set of course readings, regardless of the number of pages they intend to copy.

6. Generally, how can I use copyrighted works?

There are several ways you can use copyrighted work without infringing on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner.

  • You can link to the material.  Linking to an image or public website is not copying.  While you should still cite and give attribution to the owner of the website, it is not usually required to request permission to link to a publicly available website.
  • You can request permissions from the copyright owner.  The copyright owner can be the author/creator, the author's employer, or a publisher/production company to whom the author transferred their rights.
  • You can use the work in accordance with an existing license.  For instance:  1.) The university or the library negotiates licenses to online content that allow for classroom and reserves use.  2.)The work may be issued under a Creative Commons license where the creator has clearly established what others can do with his work.
  • Your use may fall under legal exceptions and limitations of copyright law, like fair use.

7. What can I do if the use I want to make is not permitted  by a user's right?

If you have determined that the use you want to make is not a fair use and is not permitted by any of the other user rights, you must ask for permission from the copyright holder,  purchase the relevant license for use, or apply for clearance through Copyright Clearance Centre.


8. When do I NOT need to ask for permission?

You do not need to seek permission if:

    1. The work is in the public domain.
    1. The material in question is openly licensed, such as under a Creative Commons license, or the author has otherwise explicitly granted permission; look for the CC symbol displayed on the work. Many sites, blogs and open access research are licensed this way.
    2. You follow fair use guidelines.
    3. Your use is covered under the exceptions provided for under the Singapore Copyright Act of 2021

9. What is not covered by copyright?

Ideas or concepts, lists with no originality, factual information, and titles or short phrases and names are not covered by copyright. However some of these may be covered under other IP laws like Trademark and Patents.

10. How can copyright be enforced?

Copyright can be enforced through the Courts with compensation demanded for damages suffered. The offence could even be classed as a criminal one if there is any financial gain and, in this case, there could be a fine or imprisonment. Often, copyright owners may instead make a request to cease and desist, or request that you remove their work which you have copied, from a respective site or network. So please copy responsibly.

11. How do we determine what constitutes a ‘reasonable portion’ for copying in relation to multi-media works?

Sometimes a textbook comes with an accompanying CD-ROM or DVD with audio. The copyright in the book (literary work) and in the corresponding CD-ROM (audio/audio-visual material) exist separately. You may copy a “reasonable portion” of the book. As for the CD-ROM, the Copyright Act (Chapter 63) contains no deeming provision as to what constitutes a “reasonable portion”. It is recommended that you do not make a copy but play the audio from the CD-ROM directly.

Intellectual Property: Copyright in My Works

1. What about works that I have written or produced?  Can I use them any way I want to? What about publishing them on my web site?

This depends on whether or not you actually own the copyright to your work. In some cases, your work may be considered a “work made for hire” or you may have assigned or transferred your copyright to a publisher or an organization. If a publisher or organisation / institution owns the copyright, you will need permission to use the work even if you are the author.  If there are co-authors involved, their permission needs to be sought as well. There are no restrictions to how you may use the works, if you solely own the copyright of your work, or a particular version of your work (eg. the pre-published version). The decision solely resides with you, if you are the sole copyright owner.

2. Who owns the Intellectual Property of my work if I produce them while studying / working in the university?

The SMU Intellectual Property Policy details the intellectual property rights of staff and students of SMU. Please click links below to access the policy for more information.

Staff Access   / Student Access


3. What can I do to protect my work under copyright law? / How do I write a copyright notice for my work?

Once a work has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression, it is automatically protected under copyright law. You do not have to place a notice of copyright or a copyright symbol on a work or register the work  for a work to be considered copyrighted.

However, there may be some advantages for the creator or author in placing a copyright notice or symbol on a work. The copyright notice generally consists of three elements:

  1. The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word "Copyright";

  2. The year of first publication of the work; and.

  3. The name of the owner of copyright in the work.

A suggested format is: © [year of publication] [name] Singapore Management University, [School of xxxx]. All Rights Reserved. 


©[year of publication] [name] Singapore Management University, School of XXX in collaboration with [list the other copyright owners]. All Rights Reserved.


4. As an instructor, I produce slides and teaching resources for my students. Are these copyrighted? Can they be re-purposed without my permission? How do I stop students from sharing these resources on sites like Course Hero?

 Faculty members hold copyright to the original Course Materials that they create. These include written lectures, power point presentations, study materials, tests, pre-recorded video lesson, recordings of lessons conducted online and in the selection of readings and assignments for their courses. Faculty may include a copyright notice on their Course Materials to emphasize that they are protected, and that further reproduction and redistribution  are not permitted. 

Students are obliged to respect copyright and  may use course notes and make copies of course materials for their own use only. They may not reproduce, or allow others to reproduce, adapt, distribute, upload or make available for sale, all lecture notes and course materials publicly in any way, without  written consent from the copyright owner. The making or distribution of unauthorized copies of course materials is strictly prohibited and any infringement may be subject to the disciplinary action by the University.

5. Which version of my paper can I upload to IRIS or share on ResearchGate?

Depending on the policy of the journal and the publishing agreement. The accepted version / author-final version (after peer review and revision before layout into the journal format) is often allowed. Some journals allow the published version to be uploaded, some journals only allow the pre-print or submitted version.

6. Where can I find the policy of the journal relating to saving my papers?

Sherpa Romeo can be used to check the policies of journals for archiving your papers and which versions can be shared. Alternatively, check the website of the journal or the publishing agreement you had signed.



In The Clasroom: Educational Use of Copyrighted Resources

1.  If a work is copyrighted and I want to use it for teaching purposes, what do I have to do?

For making multiple copies, copyright clearance and payment of applicable fees will be necessary, unless the copying activity and amount copied falls within Fair use guidelines. There is however, an exception. SMU has a license with the Copyright Licensing and Administration Society of Singapore Ltd (CLASS), which allows for the following:

a) Multiple copies for the number of students in the class  for the following:

  • 10% of a book or 1 chapter
  • 1 article from a periodical (per issue) / or more than 1 article if it covers the same subject matter

The publications / imprints that are permissible for multiple copying / or for uploading on to e-Learn and Reading Lists, for which (a) is applicable, will need to be covered as part of the CLASS license. The list of publishers represented by  CLASS and covered under this agreement can be found in this list of CLASS publishers.

All fair use/ far dealing exceptions and educational exceptions under the copyright law are only applicable to non-commercial instructional and learning activities. This provision does not extend to non-matriculated students in audit or executive programmes. 

2. What is the CLASS Agreement?

CLASS stands for "Copyright Licensing and Administration Society of Singapore Ltd", which represents authors and publishers around the word and collects copyright license fees for such authors and publishers. SMU has an agreement with CLASS which allows faculty to photocopy and distribute materials belonging to their CLASS authors/publishers for teaching purposes. Faculty members are advised to copy within the limits set (see Q1 above). The CLASS agreement covers only undergraduate and postgraduate courses. It is not applicable to executive programmes offered by SMU.


3. Are there any restrictions in copying for the purposes of examination?

It is permitted to use any work or protected performance for the purpose of an examination


 4. Can I provide citations and links to other resources that are available online in my teaching materials or Reading lists?

Yes, you may. However, do ensure that you do not link to resources which have been uploaded illegally.

If you’re linking to an article that is only available through a subscription journal or database, only those with authorized access to that journal or database will be able to view the article. Visit the library website to see available online journals and databases that have been acquired for the use of SMU staff and students, or ask us if you need help finding full-text online resources.

5. Can I distribute newspaper articles in class?

The Library has electronic newspaper databases in our collection. The best practice would be to encourage students to access and download the articles on their own. Another non-infringing practice is to share the article in class using a visualiser, without actually making copies. In any case, always attribute the source.

Newspapers may impose a charge for re-distribution and reproduction of their online articles. Always check the Terms Of Use listed on the newspaper site.

6. 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. It is recommended that permission is obtained from copyright owner for modifications.

7. Can I show films in the classroom or in SMU premises? / 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.

SMU also has an umbrella licence from the Motion Picture Licensing Company which allows for screening of audio-visual content such as movies and other films for the purposes of education and recreation of students, staff and faculty. However, viewing must be limited to only members of the SMU community, and the screening event must not be a chargeable event. You may access the list of producers/ studios/distributors through  this link -- Staff Access / Student Access, and check if your intended title is part of the license coverage.

For titles which are not covered by the license, seeking permission from copyright owner is recommended for recreational, non-classroom screening.

8. Can I stream a movie from Netflix? 

Netflix allows Netflix originals  (not other studios’ productions) to be screened in class / community gathering via an individual’s subscription. The Titles that can be screened can be verified here:

Netflix allows classroom / community screening within the conditions they have set. Do refer to the Terms of Use here:

9. Can I incorporate a movie clip 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 use for the purpose of research and study.

 10. 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 staff and students of SMU are detailed in the SMU IP Policy document. Please click links below to access the policy

SMU Intellectual Property Policy: Staff Access   / Student Access


11. If I collate a series of hyperlinks as references for class reading materials and send them to other lecturers, OR include a hyperlink to an online video in my lesson slides, 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. 

12.Can I annotate YouTube videos to guide students as they watch the videos for teaching / assignment purposes?

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. 

13. Am I allowed to mesh several YouTube videos to produce an interactive video? 

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.


14. When is it permissible to use and reproduce / redistribute more than 10% of a published work as course readings?

A copyright owner has sole rights to decide the amount of work that is to be copied. If you are the author of a work or own the copyright to it, you have the rights to copy/scan and upload more than 10% of the work. However, if the copyright is shared with another, permission is required from the co-owner to do so. 


15. Can I use  or copy images in my teaching materials?

If the images are part of what has been copied under Fair Use & Educational Exceptions (ie. Up to 10% of a book or 1 chapter, or 1 periodical article), then the use of the image is not in infringement. You are also allowed to use copyrighted pictures if the use is covered under Fair Use exceptions and is for non-profit educational purposesYou are encouraged  to use the Creative Commons search engine to locate images that you are free to modify, adapt or build on or library subscribed royalty-free images database.




The Web, Online Resources & Copyright

1. Are there any images or pictures on the internet, ones that can be used without infringing the rights of copyright owners?

Yes, there are a number of options for finding images that you can reuse on the web or employ in other projects. They are:

2. What are Creative Commons licenses and where can I find out more about them?

Creative Commons licenses are an alternative to the “all rights reserved” approach of copyright law. With Creative Commons licenses, an author or creator can indicate how he or she would like to a work to be attributed or reused.

For example, a work designated CC BY-NC-SA means that someone using the work must attribute it to the original author (who the work is “by”), can only use it for non-commercial purposes, and states that those reusing the work or making new versions of it must continue the same license to the new work. You can learn more about Creative Commons and the licenses on the Creative Commons website.

3. Can I scan images from print resources and post them on a website?

 Scanning images from print resources is allowed if the work is in the public domain or has a Creative Commons license that allows reuse of the original and the creation of new versions. In these cases, you can scan images without infringing on the copyright. However in most instances, all  reproduction rights for the work (the right to reproduce it, make copies, make new versions) belongs to the copyright owner. Thus, you may need permission to make copies, scan the image, and post it to a website.

4. Is linking to articles and online resources an acceptable practice?

Yes, linking to freely available online resources, as long as its not to illegally uploaded content, is acceptable practice.

5. May I cut and paste a logo or picture from someone else's website and use it on my own Web page?

If you are creating a Web page for a class assignment, you may be able use the image, as long as you follow the rules of fair use.

If you are creating a website for other reasons, however, the answer is probably no, unless you obtain permission from the person or organization that holds the copyright for the logo or picture. Images and text found on the Web are protected by copyright just like printed materials.

When Do I Need Permission to Reuse?

1. Can I use this image in my dissertation/thesis?  Do I need to get copyright permission?  Would it be considered fair use?

Reusing information, especially images, in any written work that is going to be published has some limitations.  It is possible what you want to use in your writings is covered by Fair Use in the Copyright Act. Answers to the following questions will help you decide if you may use the information either with or without permission.

  • Was the information gathered from a government documents (or technical report)?  Government documents are usually in the public domain.  Reusing text, graphs, images, and other information is allowed.  Be sure, however, to cite the resource correctly.
  • Does the resource you are using state that it is an open access item?  Read the license carefully and follow its instructions for correct use, limitations on use, and attribution requirements.

For traditionally published materials (journal articles, books, web pages, conference proceedings etc.) there is a checklist below that will help you determine if your use of copyrighted materials meets the  Fair Use exception or if you need to request copyright permission.  Below are the questions to ask about the need for copyright permission.

  • Am I using the information in an educational setting for an educational purpose?
  • Does the information illustrate a point within my writings or lecture?
  • Is the information I use technical in nature?
  • Am I using a reasonable portion of the original work?

If some of the answers to the above questions are no or "I'm not sure", then check with the library as to whether you need to get copyright permission from the original author. If all the answers are yes, proceed to the next set of questions. 

  • Will there be an economic impact on the original copyright holder?
  • Is the original image mainly artistic in nature?

If the answers to these questions are no, then what you are using may very likely fall within fair-use guidelines.  If your answers are "yes" to either question, then you should request permission from the copyright holder.

Copyright & Course Readings

1. How can I deliver Course Readings to students?

The Library offers a variety of methods to deliver your reading materials to undergraduate  and postgraduate students.

a. Course Reserve Books

  • Print books are in the Course Reserves Collection of the Library. Titles can be requested for purchase and made available in the Reserves.
  • Ebooks are available online and can be accessed anytime, although concurrent access limitations may be applicable

b. Use a Reading List via eLearn which links to electronic resources held by the Library.

c. Digitisation of resources

In this approach, materials that fall within the copying limit can also be scanned and posted on eLearn via a Reading List. 

Electronic resources which are in the library's holdings, can be linked to Reading Lists instead, as licenses primarily do not allow for reproduction and redistribution via uploads to the  Learning system.


2. Are there any exceptions in copyright to support students with visual impairment or reading disabilities?

Students with visual impairment may require to copy more than 10% of the educational exceptions of a work. The Copyright Act allows for this.

Some publishers may also offer soft copies of their print books, on a case by case basis, upon a written request. The library can assist students to make this request. Students may write to to make their requests.


3.  When is it permissible to use and reproduce / redistribute more than 10% of a published work as course readings?

A copyright owner has sole rights to decide the amount of work that is to be copied. If you are the author of a work or own the copyright to it, you have the rights to copy/scan and upload more than 10% of the work. However, if the copyright is shared with another, permission is required from the co-owner to do so. 


4. Can the electronic resources available from SMU Libraries' holdings be modified / translated/ copied/ scanned and uploaded to the Learning system?

Electronic resources that are held by the library (ebooks, ebook chapters, e-journal articles etc)  are bound by the Terms and Conditions of use as stipulated by the publishers.

The default usage terms that are allowed are:

  1. Access to resource via library link
  2. Use of resource for non-commercial activities
  3. Print and download for individual use only
  4. Open to matriculated SMU students and SMU staff

Any other uses and users will need to check the Terms of Use of the platform and its contents on what is permissible in terms of re-distribution / transformation / reuse. A written permission is often required. Alternatively, the copyright may be purchased from the Copyright Clearance centre if available. You might like to check that the rights you purchase include the right to modify / translate if that is the intended use.


5. I need  to upload a chapter that is 30 pages long from a book that only has  100 pages. Is this allowed?

For a work of at least 10 pages, copying or communicating of up to 10% of the total number of pages or 1 chapter of the works, are allowed under the educational exceptions.

6. Can Audio Visual content be ripped and uploaded  to eLearn as part of teaching activities?

Unless otherwise stated on the device, or special permission had been obtained from the copyright owner, ripping content from AV devices for streaming will be an infringement.

7. For literary anthologies,  eg. short stories or books of poetry, does the 10% rule still apply for scanning for course readings?

Educational institutions may copy or communicate more than 10% of a work if it is not separately published. - For example, from within an anthology of poems or short stories, an educational institution can copy or communicate the entire short story or poem if it is not already separately published  and  can only be found in the anthology and not elsewhere. 

8. How much can I copy from a book or journal for teaching a course / How much can I upload on eLearn without infringement?

The Copyright Act allows for educators to distribute a reasonable portion of a work in paper or electronic format to each of their students for educational purposes, i.e. make multiple copies. Typically, 10% of a work or 1 Chapter of a book, or 1 article from a periodical may be copied or scanned for upload. This falls under Educational Exception. The Exception also makes it mandatory for all copying activities to be noted and records of copying be kept for 4 years.

9. I hold the copyright of a book authored by myself.  Can I upload an unlimited amount of the works to eLearn?

The copyright owner has the right to decide how and how much he wants to reproduce / redistribute the work. There is no issue with infringement since he owns the copyright for the title.

10. If I collate a series of hyperlinks as references for class reading materials and send them to students or share them with other faculty,  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. However, avoid directing students to links which may have materials which have been pirated, or in infringement. Authorizing access to “illegal” resources should be avoided

11. Can newspaper article be uploaded in eLearn as part of my Class Readings?

If the article is from a physical paper, one article may be copied for the purpose of review and criticism. However, if the news article can be found on the electronic databases of the library, a link to the resource is recommended. Some newspapers require a payment for reproduction of the article. Please check the Terms and Conditions of the site or the newspaper

12. Can I download a chapter of an ebook, and then post it up on eLearn or my Reading List?

Ebooks are usually provided to institutions based on a license agreement which often restricts further dissemination or reproduction of the contents.  It is encouraged that students are given links to the Ebooks, which will take them to the authorized library site to access the book. The Terms and Conditions of the resource or platform on which the resource is accessed, usually provides more information on copying guidelines. 

13. I need more than 10% of a book to be copied for my students. What can I do?

The legal limit for Educational exceptions is set at 10%. If the reading assignments go beyond that, the library can buy the books/ ebooks for student access. Please consult Reading List Services on how we can assist you with your requirements. 


The use of electronic resources must comply with the Appropriate Use of Electronic Resources Policy and Singapore Management University Acceptable Use Policy