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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

Copyright Basics


Welcome to SMU Libraries' Guide to Copyright.

This guide provides information and resources on Singapore copyright law and how it relates to academic activities such as research and teaching in SMU. The contents in this guide are intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

SMU Libraries Copyright Chatbot

Copyright @ SMU

SMU Intellectual Property Policy 

This document details the intellectual property rights of staff and students of SMU. Please click links below to access the policy

Staff Access   / Student Access


Copyright in Course Materials

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.


The Motion Pictures Licensing Company (MPLC Umbrella License) 

SMU has an umbrella licence from the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC Umbrella Licence) to screen audio-visual content such as movies and other programmes for the purposes of entertaining and educating students, staff and faculty. The current MPLC Umbrella Licence covers the period 1 July 2019 to 1 July 2022.

Staff Access / Student Access

The Singapore Copyright Act

Copyright is an intellectual property right recognized and protected by law. In Singapore this is essentially covered under the Copyright Act (Cap. 63). Copyright exists in all forms of works, such as books, periodicals, magazines, compilations of information, photographs,  manuscripts, computer programs, drawings, sculpture, music scores, lyrics, sound recordings, films, television broadcasts, cable programmes etc. Read more about the Singapore Copyright Act here and note the exceptions on Fair Dealing and Education, which allow for copying within the stipulated limits. The Act is currently being reviewed by Ministry of Law.

Fair Dealing

Fair Dealing

There are some “fair dealing” exceptions to copyright infringement under our copyright law. A certain amount of copying, for example, is permissible as long as it is a situation of “fair dealing” as determined by the Court.

 Factors the Court may consider in determining “fair dealing” include:

- the purpose and character of the dealing (e.g. commercial or non-profit educational purposes)

- the nature of the work ( A finding of fair dealing is less likely in cases involving fiction-based copyright works as opposed to fact-based ones)

- the amount and substantiality of the part copied in relation to the whole work

- the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of, the work 

In other cases, fair dealings for the purposes of criticism, review or reporting current events would not constitute copyright infringement. In most of such cases, a sufficient acknowledgment of the work is required.

If you copy works for a specific purpose of research and study, it is considered fair dealing so long copying limits are observed. For a published work of at least 10 pages, the copying limit is 10% of the total number of or one chapter of the work, whichever is greater.


(adapted from, Jan 28, 2020)

Copyright Checklist on Fair Dealing

Guide to Copyright Compliance

The following Checklist aims to help educators, librarians and others evaluate content uses to determine if the fair dealing exception applies. This tool provides a means for recording your analysis, which is critical to establishing "reasonable and good-faith" attempts to apply fair dealing principles.



Contact Copyright Librarian

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Nazimah Ram Nath

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Copyright Advisory & Resources

The Copyright InfoPack : From Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS)

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has prepared a set of handbooks and information packs which provide an overview on each form of IP and the copyright regulations governing various contexts. The Copyright Infopack and other relevant  information leaflets can be downloaded from the links on the IPOS website, as listed below*:


* Permission obtained from IPOS.

SMU Libraries' Copyright Advisory Resources


CopyRIGHT @ SMU Libraries

The SMU Libraries "copyRIGHT" newsletter highlights issues, updates and trends in copyright, especially in libraries and institutions of higher learning, around the world. It also addresses frequently asked questions by teaching staff, school administrators and students in SMU.

Copyright & The Internet

Using Internet Resources : What You Need To Know


Website content is also protected by copyright like most works, unless they are in the public domain or they come under some copyright exceptions. Some of the common queries on using web content are as follows:

1a.  Can I quote it on my personal website?

1b.  Can I link to the other person's personal website / blog?

1c.  Can I take screen shots of the website / blog and place it on my personal website?

1d.  Can I forward part of the text by email to other people?


Original website / blog content is protected by copyright. A copyright owners' consent is needed to make copies, which is entailed by the actions in (a) quoting, (c) taking screen shots and (d) forwarding by email. Check whether any policy or terms of use on the website / blog address this. You should contact the website/blog owner if in doubt.

On the other hand, you can make copies without the express consent of copyright owners if it is a situation of “fair dealing” or if it is done for the purpose of non-profit education, criticism or review. In such a case, you will need to identify the title and author of the blog entry / web content. Checking the policy or terms of use on the website / blog and contacting the website / blog owner if in doubt are useful, practical steps, and they apply to the issue of linking in (b) as well.   Generally, copyright owners could welcome links to their personal website / blog if there are no other commercial or privacy concerns

As a point of caution, you should be careful not to create links to websites / blogs which may carry content that infringes copyright. In such a case, you yourself might infringe copyright by “authorising infringement”, in that others make unauthorised copies of the content using the link on your website / blog. So exercise caution when linking to sites offering "free" academic content, as they may not be legally available for free.

2. Can I use images on the web, eg. by Google Images and upload them on my website / blog or course materials?

In such instances, it is always encouraged that you check the Terms of Use of the site where the image is from.  If the Terms and Conditions do not address your intended use of the images, you may contact the copyright owners directly for consent. Unless covered by Fair Dealing / Educational exceptions, or intended for criticism and review, copying images off the web without the copyright owner's permission is an infringement.

3. Can I copy articles onto my personal website / blog / course materials?  I will acknowledge the source. 

Articles from newspapers, books and other forms of publications are protected by copyright. You generally need the copyright owners' consent to make copies on your website / blog. The copyright owner may be the publisher, or the individual author, especially if he / she is a freelancer. You should check with the publisher if in doubt. Merely acknowledging the source will not be enough to avoid infringing copyright in the publications. The Fair Dealing / Education exception allows such use if its for non-profit, non-commercial educational use or for criticism and review.  In such a case, relevant attribution, ie. title of article and author details will need to be indicated..

4. I am undertaking a research on a particular topic. Can I copy from the Internet?

Original internet content is protected by copyright and a copyright owner's consent is needed to copy their content.The website may have policies or terms of use to address this, which you will need to check prior to your intended use.

However, content may be copied without the express consent of copyright owner if it is done for the purpose of research or study. However, the amount copied must be a “reasonable portion” of the original work. Under our copyright law, this means you can only copy up to 10% of the number of pages, words or bytes on the one hand, or one chapter on the other hand, whichever is more.

FAQ on Copying & Distribution

Making multiple copies/ Class Distribution

1. When do I need to seek copyright clearance for distributing a resource in my class?

For making multiple copies, copyright clearance and payment of applicable fees will be necessary, even if the portion being copied falls within the permissible limits. 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 a chapter, whichever is greater
  • 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 the Learning System, for which (a) is applicable, will need to be covered as part of the CLASS License (click this link to see list of publishers represented by CLASS).

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. As long as faculty falls within the copying limit when copying the CLASS materials, no copyright clearance is needed and no copyright fees need to be paid. The CLASS agreement covers only undergraduate and postgraduate by coursework only. It is not applicable to executive programmes.

3. How do I go about distributing a resource from a CLASS author / publisher?

The following conditions must be met before distributing the material.

a) The materials copied are within copying limit ie. 10% of a book or a chapter, whichever is greater / 1 article from a periodical (per issue) / or more than 1 article if it covers the same subject matter

b) There has to be a notation on the first page of the Master copy. 

"Copy made on behalf of Singapore Management University on <date>. No further reproduction allowed"

Notation stamps are available from the General Office of the Schools.

4. Are all materials on the CLASS publisher list covered in the agreement?

No. Please note the following:

  • The copyright of the material must be owned by the CLASS publishers. If not, it is not covered by the agreement.
  • Case studies are not covered. These are to be purchased seperately from Case centres.
  • Other exceptions specified by CLASS.
  • Check with the Library for more information.

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, and always attribute the source.

When in doubt, please contact

When Do I Need Permission to Reuse?

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

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 Dealing in the Copyright Act.  This exception allows you to use reasonable amounts (up to 5%) of copyrighted materials for scholarship and educational purposes. 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, conferences distributed on CD, etc.) there is a checklist below that will help you determine if your use of copyrighted materials meets the Fair Dealing 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 your adviser 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.

Photocopying For Personal Use

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

​If 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 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.

4. What is the copying limit

(a) For periodicals (eg. magazines, journals, newspapers)

- Only one article in a periodical, per issue OR more than 1 article if all articles copied are on the same subject matter from the said periodical.

(b) For books 

10% of total number of pages in a physical edition that is not less than 10 pages OR

10% of the total number of bytes in an electronic edition  OR

One chapter, if work is divided into chapters




Copyright and Reading Lists

1. How can I deliver Course Readings to students?

The Library offers a variety of methods to deliver your reading materials to undergraduate 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

b. Use a reading list which links to electronic resources held by the Library.

In this approach, materials that fall within the copying limit can also be scanned and posted on eLearn via a Reading List. This is applicable to readings which are covered in the CLASS agreement, or for which copyright is owned / or cleared by Faculty.

2. How do I request for course readings?

The Library sends out a call to faculty members before the start of each term. Do contact for assistance.

3. How long does it take to produce an electronic course reading?

As long as there are no copyright issues, the lead time will be approximately 2 weeks.Please submit your requests early to ensure that the course pack can be prepared before the start of term. 

4. Where can I obtain an inspection copy for HBS and IVEY cases?

  • HBS case/Harvard Business Review
  • IVEY case


Why Could Using Others’ Images on In Your Content Constitute Copyright Infringement?

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 section 31(1) of the CA, any person who exercises any one of the rights in a copyright without proper authorisation from the copyright owner would be considered to be infringing the copyright in a work.

To use images owned by others on your content / publication without violating Singapore’s copyright laws, it is suggested that you:

General FAQs on Copyright and Use of Copyrighted Works

Getting Permission

Getting Permission


If copyright owners are not prominently noted in the copyright notice in the respective works, figuring out whom to ask can be a major undertaking. The following steps can assist to provide you with a systematic way to approach the task:

  1. Identify the author(s) and contact one or more of them
  2. Ask whether they own the copyright or whether the work was work for hire
  3. Ask whether they have conveyed away any of their rights, and if so, to whom

Orphan works and taking risks

If you can't identify authors (or their estates) or business owners, or can't successfully contact them, you probably have an "orphan work"  -- works for which a copyright owner cannot be found. Copying and redistribution of orphan works carry some risks as original authors may come out of the woods and and haul the user for infringement. 

Getting explicit permission

Explicit permission is required:

- When a work has an outright copyright protection

- When the work has not been licensed for your use, or current licenses purchased by your institution does not cover the work in question

- When your use does not fall under failr dealing or otherwise exempt from liability for infringement under copyright exceptions, you need permission. 

Getting permission can be difficult, but in some cases there are steps likely to yield results. The steps will vary depending on the type of work you need to use.

Copyright Clearance Center

If the work is part of a book or a journal article, check the Copyright Clearance Center ("CCC") first. The CCC offers electronic and photocopy based transactional (case-by-case) permission services, as well as a subscription license that covers typical institutional use of works for the classroom of all the works in the license repertoire.SMU libraries can advise you on this. If the work you want to use is registered with the CCC, you can get permission instantly for most materials. Often, a cost is inviolved.. If the work you would like to use is covered under the The Copyright Licensing and Administration Society of Singapore  license,  your use is covered, within the terms of the license.

Foreign collectives

The UK-based Copyright Licensing Agency ("CLA") offers a license for the creation, storage and exploitation of digital versions of existing print works in its repertoire. Canadian agency, Access Copyright, provides licenses for books, magazines, newspapers, and other publications.


The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation, is an independent copyright licensing service exclusively authorized by major Hollywood motion picture studios and independent producers to grant umbrella licenses to nonprofit groups and educational institutions, for public performance rights.SMU has acquired an MPLC license. Please see the SMU MPLC licence for more information.

Internet Archive has educational public domain films available for download. The films are stored in MPEG format and need to be downloaded to view rather than viewing as streaming video.


Contacting the Owner

If you know who the author and the publishers are, you can contact them directly. If you do not know who the publisher is, The Literary Marketplace (for books) or Ulrich's Web (for journals) may help you. 
Once you know whom to ask, writing a letter, calling or emailing are all appropriate ways to initiate contact.

Confirming authority to grant permission

Whenever it is unclear who the owner is, or if the owner is a legal entity of some kind (a business or organization), ensure that the person giving you permission is authorized to do so. For example, if you are negotiating with an author, question her about whether she retained copyright or whether she assigned it to her publisher. 

Written permission

Ideally, your permission should be in writing and should clearly describe the scope of what you are being permitted to do. 

If you receive oral permission, precisely describe what you want to do, and then document the conversation carefully. It is recommended that a confirming letter be sent to the owner, asking him or her to initial it and return it to you if it accurately reflects your agreement.




Copyright Crash Course, CC-BY, 

Public Domain and Creative Commons Resources

Resources in the Public Domain

Works that are in the public domain are not protected by copyright because:

  1. The author dedicated them to public use;
  2. The copyright term has expired without renewal;
  3. The work is of a type that does not qualify for copyright protection.

Works in the public domain may be used without any limitations.

There are several great resources for finding and accessing materials in the public domain:

Resources for Educators

Teacher Tube

Smartcopying - Open Education Resources (OER) and Creative Commons

Images That Can Be Used Legally

Images In The Public Domain and Creative Commons Licensed Content

Pixabay - Over 390,000 free photos, vectors and art illustrations in the public domain

Pexels - Over 10,000 free stock photos. All images available under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. Attribution is not required.

Flickr Advanced Search - Choose “Only search within Creative Commons-Licensed Content.”

Google Advanced Image Search - Use the “Usage Rights” field to limit by license type.

Library of Congress: American Memory - A free “digital record of American history and creativity.”

Library of Congress: Prints & Photographs Online Catalog - Photographs, prints, drawings, posters, and
architectural drawings, and more.

 NGA Images - Public domain artworks from the collections of the National Gallery of Art.

Noun Project - Free clip art images requiring creator credit.

NYPL Digital Gallery - Illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs, and more, from the New York Public Library.

Notable collections: Image Archives, and Smithsonian Images

Wikimedia Commons - Browse or search for freely reusable images.

Wikipedia Public Domain Images - List of public domain image sources on the web.


Creative Commons Resources


Creative Commons is an international non-profit organisation that provides free licences and tools that copyright owners can use to allow others to share, reuse and remix their material, legally

Search here for free images, text, music, or audio-visual resources to use in your own work


(logo and text from

Open Educational Resources

SMU Libraries' Guide on Open Resources

"Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them" - UNESCO

Read more on OER's in this Research Guide by SMU Libraries' Research Librarian, Melody Chin.


Open Educational Resources Explained

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