Working Paper Series: WP04-004
Publication date: July 2004
Submission date: April 2004

Copyright exceptions for teaching purposes in Europe

Copyright and Digital Distance Education (CDDE)
Raquel Xalabarder (
Professor of Law and Political Science Studies (UOC)


There is no “typical” digital distance education course. For copyright purposes, the activities of an on-line University always involve the use of preexisting copyrighted works or otherwise protected material (either through the tangible reproduction and distribution of materials, through web-posted materials, or through library-accessed databases).


When using a preexisting copyrighted (or otherwise protected) work, the educational institution or teacher has two options: either seek a license from the copyright owner or rely on the several existing exceptions/limitations to the copyright law. On the one hand, the problems an educational institution must face when obtaining licenses are diverse: difficulty in locating the copyright owner, inability to obtain a timely response, and unreasonable prices or other terms. On the other hand, not all the uses of copyrighted works that take place as part of DDE activities may be covered by copyright exceptions/limitations allowing the unauthorised (and usually, free) use of protected works (among others, exceptions for teaching purposes, quotations, private use, etc).


The goal of this project is to examine whether and to what extent these exceptions/limitations, clearly envisioned for the world as we know it today (what we call the “analog world”), could and should be applied also to the digital world. We examine whether and to what extent something that is allowed as part of an educational activity in the analog world should also be allowed when that same educational activity takes place in the digital world—that is, the Internet, as we know it today.  Since the extent and conditions of these exceptions vary, sometimes widely, among different domestic laws and international agreements, we have consulted with several experts from around the world. The research Project Copyright and Digital Distance Education (CDDE), upon which the present working paper is based, is formed by the following documents: 

  • CDDE Questionnaire by Raquel Xalabarder, Muntsa Vilamitjana
  • Australia by IPRIA, Eloise Dias
  • Belgium by Alain Strowel, Charles-Henry Massa
  • France by Valérie Benabou
  • Germany by Christophe Geiger
  • Italy by Massimo Pavolini
  • Netherlands by Lucie Guibault
  • New Zealand by Anna Kingsbury
  • Spain by Ramon Casas
  • Switzerland by Jacques de Werra
  • United Kingdom by Richard McCracken
  • United States of America by Raquel Xalabarder
  • Working Paper n.1 (November 2002) by Raquel Xalabarder, Muntsa Vilamitjana
  • Working Paper n.2 (July 2003) by Raquel Xalabarder, Muntsa Vilamitjana

(You can access the CDDE research project here).


As a conclusion, we propose a statutory licensing scheme, as a remunerated copyright exception, to cover all teaching uses over the Internet.

Copyright, teaching uses, exceptions