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  • Writer's pictureAndy Mitchell

Copyright Law for Schools and Colleges © 2023 School. All Rights Reserved.

As a school leader, your job is to ensure everyone follows the rules, including copyright law. Copyright Law for schools and colleges can be a minefield, so it’s important to have a clear understanding and a clear policy in place.

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Over the last year, we’ve noticed that some school staff have had a relaxed view on copyright content, asking us to schedule images, videos and audio which are clearly copyright protected. These include end-of-year videos, images taken from Google images and video clips from famous feature films. As the gatekeepers to the school’s social media accounts, we can quickly identify and query content which, if posted, could land the school in some hot water. We are also able to source, license and use an alternative image, video or audio track to use in place of the protected media.

School leaders must ensure that any content posted on social media channels is in full accord with UK copyright law, in order to protect the best interests of the school, its reputation and resources. Sadly, many people still falsely assume that using copyright protected material is allowed in educational settings, resulting in the school failing to remain legally compliant. If not sufficiently adhered to, copyright breaches can lead to financial retribution and put the future of the school at stake. For the sake of prevention, it is essential that the monitoring and handling of posts is conducted by someone with an educated understanding of copyright law, who is empowered to make informed judgements before content is shared.

Man hiding face in copyright law

Therefore, it is essential that schools either invest in training for staff to ensure that everyone knows what can and cannot be posted, or use an experienced social media management company – or both! Ultimately, these options ensure that any content shared prior to, or during, engagement on social media can be shared legally and not risk the reputation, quality and resources of the school.

It can be very easy to fall into the trap of “it won’t happen to us”, but it could. Copyright owners are using AI and bots to trawl the internet and social media, looking for their material, in order to claim compensation – think ambulance chasers! There have been instances of schools receiving cease & desist letters from copyright owners and these are on the increase as companies automate their searches for images, video and music. We know of one school which received a cease and desist letter, but were unable to remove the copyright protected content because the account owner had since left the school, leaving the school in a very difficult situation (more on this in a future blog).

man opening letter with bad news

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you have any doubts about the legality of something, simply don’t use it. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaching its provisions. You don’t want to be explaining to your students, staff, parents, governors and community that you can’t afford paper because someone posted something they shouldn’t have on social media!

If you’d like to discuss how you can protect your school from any potential copyright issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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