What is copyright?

Article 1 of the Copyright Act (Auteurswet) provides a clear definition of copyright:


‘Copyright refers to the exclusive legal right of the author of a scientific, literary or artistic work, or of those entitled under them, to publish or reproduce this work, subject to the restrictions laid down by law.’


Creators can grant or withhold permission for the use of their work.

They may also make their consent subject to conditions, such as compensation.

Creators are also entitled to attribution.

In addition to protecting the rights of content creators, the Copyright Act also safeguards freedom of information.

Copyright in education

For example, lecturers and researchers use articles, reports, books and images when developing teaching and learning materials or conducting research. This often concerns publications that have been produced by others and are usually subject to copyright. 


As a rule of thumb, you will need permission (a license) in order to publish or reproduce copyrighted materials, unless you have been granted an exemption.


The Copyright Act lists three exemptions for educational re-use ('limitations') (Section 15 of the Copyright Act and Section 16 of the Copyright Act):

a) Right to quote

b) Presentation restriction

c) Restriction on educational use


Right to quote

The right to quote allows for copyright-protected works to be included in a 'scientific treatise' free of charge without the permission of the creator.

This can be interpreted broadly, and also extends to the educational use of PowerPoint presentations. However, the right to quote is obviously subject to limitations: this also applies to educational usage.

Preconditions for invoking the right to quote:

  • usage must be functional; it must serve to support the content of the lecture and should not merely be used for embellishment;
  • the length of the quotation must be proportionate to the objective; for example, long programmes or texts may not be used, but short excerpts may. Works of art and photographs may be 'quoted' in full;
  • source references must be provided, the work may not be amended in any way and must have been previously made public (Section 15a Copyright Act).

Presentation restriction

A copyrighted work may be exhibited or performed for non-commercial educational purposes without the permission of the copyright holder (Section 12(5) of the Copyright Act).

This covers audio-visual works such as films, videos and television programmes, audio works such as music and sound recordings, and still images such as photographs and works of art.

Presentation restriction preconditions:

  • for non-commercial educational purposes;
  • the works must be presented as part of the curricular content;
  • they must be presented in the classroom (physically or digitally); videos from the Internet may be screened during the lesson in a classroom or through MS Teams or Collaborate.

PLEASE NOTE: this exemption does not entitle you to upload a copy (e.g. a recording of the class) to the LMS or any other electronic learning environment (e.g. Microsoft Teams) so that students can watch it at home.

Restriction on educational use

The Copyright Act provides exemptions for the educational use of excerpts from a work.

Such usage is subject to the following conditions:

  • elements of works of any kind may be copied and made public for non-commercial educational purposes (Section 16 of the Copyright Act); 
  • this means copies may also be distributed through an electronic learning environment provided this is exclusively for educational purposes, for example within a secure environment that students can access using a password;
  • excerpts from works may only be used to illustrate lessons; they must be complementary and should never be used as a substitute for the actual teaching materials;
  • the copyright holders must receive fair remuneration for the use of their work. In some cases, the copyright owner may also agree to set this equitable remuneration at 0 euros. The higher education sector has established a joint buyout agreement for educational usage in the form of the Easy Access agreement;
  • source acknowledgement is mandatory;
  • the work may not be modified in any way;
  • the work must have been previously published (unpublished works may not be used).