Skip to main content

Copyright FAQs

This page provides answers to frequently asked questions about reproducing third-party content in a presentation. The information is designed to ensure RCOG conference presenters follow all guidelines and request all necessary permissions to use material in their presentations.

The FAQs relate to content from books, websites, journals, newspapers, slides from other meetings and any other form of published work.

What is copyright?

Copyright is the intellectual property right that seeks to protect the form of the expression of ideas. The purpose of copyright is to reward authors and creators of original works, by allowing them to control how their work is used.

Who owns the copyright?

Normally, the author will own the copyright. However, there are certain exceptions to this. For example:

  • If you’ve written a book about your job, while employed, your employer could own the copyright in the book
  • If you’ve contributed a chapter to a textbook or submitted an article to a journal, the publishers often require that you give them the copyright in your contribution or grant them an exclusive licence to publish
  • Your employment contract may stipulate that your employer owns the copyright in any work you produce as part of your duties – check your contract or ask your HR department

Why is copyright so important?

We take copyright very seriously as we think it’s important to respect the contributions of our colleagues. Breach of copyright can have serious consequences, ranging from being forced to remove your presentation from our programme all the way through to financial penalties and reputational damage, which can be even more serious for charities than the financial consequences.

We ask all of our contributors to think about copyright at the beginning, to avoid any embarrassing situations further down the line.

What material in my presentation do I need to get copyright permission to use?

Conference presentations (especially slides) can contain any number of materials that you may need permission to use. These include (but are not limited to):

  • The text of your presentation
  • Original text in the slides
  • Images/illustrations
  • Quotations (even quotations from your own work – see below)
  • Case studies
  • Logos
  • Videos

Can I quote material (including my own) in my presentation?

Yes, of course you may. The general rule is that you should obtain clearance from the owner of the copyright before using any material. However, if you are only quoting a limited part of a work, the exception for ‘quotation’ may well apply.

The requirements for the exception to apply are as follows:

  • The work from which you are quoting has been published or otherwise made available to the public
  • The quotation constitutes ‘fair dealing’ (see below)
  • You quote no more than necessary, and
  • You acknowledge authorship of the quote

‘Fair dealing’ is essentially the law’s way of saying your use is fair and reasonable, and it ties into the other requirements. For example, if you quote the majority of a paper in your presentation, this is unlikely to be considered ‘fair dealing’. Similarly, if you quote a yet-to-be published work, this will not be considered ‘fair dealing’.

Provided your quotation meets the above criteria, you may not need to obtain clearance from the rights holder. If you are in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and obtain clearance.

How should I ‘acknowledge the authorship’?

The law requires ‘sufficient acknowledgement’. We recommend citing the author, the title of the work and the publisher when using a quote. This will direct anyone with queries to the correct work.

When should I seek clearance for content?

If you intended to extensively quote from a publication (even if it is your own), this may not fall under the quotation exception (see above) and clearance will be required. If you don’t obtain clearance, you (and the RCOG) may be guilty of infringing copyright. As such, we recommend obtaining clearance from the publisher.

Similarly, if you use illustrations from publications, these will be separate copyrighted works in and of themselves. As you will be seeking to use the entire work, the exception of quotation is unlikely to apply and clearance should be sought from the publisher.

If it is your own content from a textbook or an article you have published, we recommend checking your agreement with the publisher. While it’s likely that you either assigned copyright to your publisher or gave them an exclusive licence to publish (see above), you may be able to use the content in a limited manner. If in doubt, check with your publisher about the proposed use.

Is there a form produced by the RCOG that I can use to send to publishers?

Most publishers prefer you to use their online permissions clearing centre to make such requests. Look for a link to ‘permissions’ or ‘request permissions’. You are likely to receive a quicker response if you use this service.

I’ve reproduced images in slides for years with no repercussions. Just because the slides will be online now, this will create more work. Is this really so important?

We understand the time taken to prepare slides and will help in any way we can. However, just because the breach has not been caught in the past is no guarantee for the future. For the reasons set out above, we ask that you take the time to clear your slides.

My presentation is for educational purposes. Do I still need to obtain copyright permission?

Yes, you do. The ‘educational purposes’ exception is quite limited in scope and applies to private study and research. When you present at a meeting, and your presentation includes copyrighted work, you are communicating that copyrighted material to the public (or a selection thereof). This requires permission.

Do I still need to obtain copyright permission if I only give my presentation at the meeting itself, and don’t agree to having my presentation recorded or making my presentation slides available to the delegates?

Yes, you do. When you present at a meeting, and your presentation includes copyrighted work, you are communicating that copyrighted material to the public (or a selection thereof). This requires permission, unless your presentation is your original work (not published elsewhere) or falls under the exception for quotation (as discussed above).

The material I want to reproduce is RCOG-copyrighted (e.g. from a TOG or BJOG article, or a Green-top Guideline). Do I need to request permission?

Most material published in TOG or BJOG, or our clinical guidelines, is RCOG copyright. In these cases you do not need to request permission to reproduce the material in your presentation.

However, some images and tables featured in RCOG publications are not RCOG-copyrighted, i.e. the authors themselves will have requested permission to re-use them. If this is the case, there will be a note in the figure or table legend to the effect ‘Reproduced with permission from...’. If this is the case, you will need to request permission from the rights holder. For BJOG and TOG, you can do this on the journals’ online pages on Wiley Online Library – for each article, there is a ‘Request permissions’ link on the right-hand side under ‘Article tools’.

I previously requested permission to use an image for another meeting. Can I assume it’s okay to do so again, without going back to the publisher?

Unfortunately, no. Reproduction requests tend to be for one reproduction (i.e. for one book or one meeting), so you must make a separate application each time you reproduce the material. If you wish to reproduce the same material multiple times, you will need to make a specific request to the publisher.

If I’ve taken photographs of patients. Do I need permission from the patient?

This is not question of copyright, but of data protection. Images of people, including photographs and films, are categorised as personal data under the Data Protection Act 1998. Anything that may reveal details of a patient’s health condition is sensitive personal data.

As such, images of patients must be handled very carefully. There are several categories relating to images of people, so please see the RCOG rights and permissions page for information based on the law. The simple answer is, yes, you always need explicit permission. We recommend that you obtain permission in writing, wherever possible.

When you are obtaining permission, please be clear what you are seeking permission for and where the image will appear. For example, a patient may be happy for their image to appear on a poster presented at an event, but may not be happy for their image to be included on the website displaying the same poster online.

What about case studies?

If it’s possible to identify a patient from the information provided in the case study (even if the patient is not named or shown), this will be sensitive personal data under the Data Protection Act 1998 and you will need express consent to use their case as an example. As above, we recommend obtaining consent in writing from the patients.

What should I do if someone asks to use the slides from a presentation I’ve given at a conference?

Technically, you can only give permission for reuse of your own, non-published information. The person wishing to reuse the previously published material will need to go through the process of clearing the material themselves. This is not your responsibility. If they have any further questions, please feel free to refer them to us.

Elsewhere on the site

Guidance for speakers
Useful information for anyone speaking at an RCOG event
Guidance for chairs
Useful information for anyone chairing a session at an RCOG event