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Student guide

What you can do – and what you can't do

This page gives some general tips about what you are allowed to do with different types of other people's work, as part of your school work under copyright law. It also gives you an idea of when you may need to obtain permission to do more.

You will need to talk to a teacher or library staff at your school to find out whether your school has a particular licence and whether it allows you to do what you want to do.

On this page:


Copying from books, magazines, newspapers, and websites

As part of your school work, you are usually allowed to make one copy of:

  • a small part of a book (perhaps one chapter)
  • one article in a magazine or newspaper
  • part of a page on a website.

You can also include this in your project if you wish. You must acknowledge where it came from, of course.

If you want to make more than one copy, talk to a teacher or library staff. In some cases, it is OK to make many copies of a page or two. The amount you can copy is larger if your school has a CLNZ licence or a PMCA New Zealand newspaper licence.

Copying pictures

Cutting out an image from a magazine you own and pasting it into your project is OK. Making one photocopy of an image in a book, magazine, or newspaper for a project is also OK. So is printing off or using one copy of an image from the Internet.

Playing around with other people's images is not OK – changing, photoshopping, or morphing is not OK unless you have permission. The best thing is to make your own images and play with those.

Copying recorded music

You are allowed to play a CD for other people at school to listen to, as long as it is part of a class or lesson. You are not allowed to copy a CD – this includes copying onto portable MP3 players.

You cannot use music from a CD (or any other music recording) in your own music – this includes mixing and making up raps over other people's music.

You cannot play a CD during a public event (if anyone other than teachers or students is there) at your school without first getting permission from the copyright owners.

The only time you can use music recordings in your own work without getting permission is during a class or lesson about making films or film sound-tracks.

Copying music scores (sheet music)

You can copy part of a music score to help with your study or playing (such as avoiding a tricky page turn).

Your music teacher will be able to copy a music score for you and other students in your class if your school has a print music licence.

Copying your own movies using commercial software

If you want to use some commercial software to put your own movie in an easy-to-see format to send round to your friends, make sure you know what you have to do so that the copy is legal.

For example, Apple QuickTime has very specific conditions for using the compiling software (not the viewing software). These include putting the logo on the CD or DVD you make, making sure the logo is the right colour, and using the most recent version of the software.

Computer programs and video games

If you have the original CD of a computer software program, you can legally make one backup copy, but no more.

You do not 'own' the program – you only have permission from the software company to use the program. Ordinarily, you will not be allowed to use the program on a computer at school or give the CD to friends to load onto their PCs.

The same applies to video games.


Downloading or copying music from the Internet

It is illegal to download music from many websites on the Internet. Make sure you only use copyright-free music sites or pay-for-copy sites.

There are websites offering music that may be downloaded legitimately, so use only these sites, such as Coke Tunes ®.

Look carefully at the statements on the site about copyright and the rights to copy. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Also, check your school Internet policy on downloading music, even legal music. Often this is prohibited due to the traffic it creates.

Downloaded software

There is a huge amount of free software (freeware) on the Internet that you can download legally. Usually you are allowed to keep the download and give it to a friend. There are always conditions with the downloading, so make sure you check them out. Usually they prevent you from selling or de-compiling the software, and sometimes you must make a reference to where it came from.

Look for free, legal downloadable software on the Internet or software provided free with computer magazines – often these are great programs and are as good as the expensive ones.

Film / video / DVD

You can show a video or DVD that you bought or hired to other people at school as long as it is part of a class or lesson.

You cannot show a video or DVD at a public event of any kind at your school, or use film from it to make your own film, without first getting the permission of the copyright owners.

The only time you can play a film in school without getting permission is during a class or lesson about making films or film sound-tracks.


Sampling and making mixes of music recordings

If you sample and make mixes of someone else's music, it will be illegal. Saying 'everyone does it' does not let you off! This also applies to doing voice-overs on existing tracks.

All commercial artists have to get permission to make mixes. In one recent case, a New Zealand hip hop artist used some samples from a 1960s track. They forgot to get permission and their first big album had to be withdrawn at huge cost to the band.


Performing other people's music

You can perform other people's music within the school as part of your study, but you may not perform this music in public, unless your school has an APRA public performance music licence.

To record your performance of someone else's music, your school must have an APRA recording music licence.

Performing music by ear

Playing by ear or by heart is still using the copyright in the music, so the same rules apply.

Recording from TV and radio

Watching a TV programme or listening to a radio programme at school at the time it is broadcast is fine.

Recording a TV or radio programme at home to look at or listen to later is fine, but you can't show a TV recording or play a radio broadcast at school unless your school has a Screenrights broadcast licence.


Read this explanation from the NetSafe website about the use of YouTube in the classroom.