FAQ Copyright Legislation

Teachers and researchers at TU Berlin have a number of options for making content in research and teaching available online. The following Q & A text provides information on the current legal situation. We will continually update and amend this text to ensure that it reflects future developments (last updated: 20 April 2020). 

What do I need to be aware of when making materials available for online teaching?

You must respect the applicable copyright laws for everything you make available to your students. This particularly applies to all materials which you have not created yourself or which contain elements which you have not created yourself (e.g. illustrations) (see 2.1). 

If you create materials yourself, you should release these for subsequent use by others. We recommend that you use Creative Commons license CC BY 4.0 or CC BY-SA 4.0 (see 4.1) for your materials. 

To avoid copyright problems, we recommend that you include a link to licensed or freely available materials wherever possible, rather than directly incorporate such material.

Which materials may I make available in electronic form on learning platforms in the context of my university teaching?

Materials pursuant to Section 60a Copyright Act for the Knowledge-Based Society (UrhWissG)

Section 60a of the Copyright Act for the Knowledge-Based Society (UrhWissG) governs the use of materials for the purposes of illustration in teaching at educational institutions, for digital course reserves and learning platforms. You may include the works or parts of the works listed here on learning platforms such as ISIS.


There must be a closed circle of users in each case. Apart from the teaching staff and participants in a particular course, this also encompasses examiners and other university teaching staff. The materials may be made available for the duration of the course, up to a maximum period of 13 months after the start of the semester.

The following are permitted: 

  • The use of up to 15% of the content of a published work (this also applies for works published abroad).
  • Use of entire “small” works, these include:
    • Individual papers from journals
      (Please note: This does not apply for articles from newspapers and magazines. In this case, 15% is allowed) 
    • Films and pieces of music lasting no more than 5 minutes
    • Spoken works on a small scale (max. 25 seconds)
    • Sheet music up to a maximum of 6 pages
  • Use of entire works which are out of print or no longer obtainable via the book trade
  • Full use of illustrations (including photographs) from journals

Freely available and own materials

  • Open access publications with Creative Commons licenses
  • Open Educational Resources (OER) with Creative Commons licenses
  • Copyright-free and public domain works (e.g., works which appeared prior to 1920 or by authors who have been dead for over 70 years)
  • Excerpts within the scope of the right to citation (on the condition that the content is analyzed)
  • Own lecture notes and materials

Materials for which a license exists

  • Materials with campus and national licenses (Primo Knowledge Portal)
  • Individual consent of the copyright holder

Which rules apply for research?

In research, the same rules on making materials available on internal platforms apply as in teaching: 

-> See: “Which materials may I make available in electronic form on learning platforms in the context of my university teaching?”

The circle of users must be restricted to a group of persons who use the materials for their own scientific research. 

For your own scientific research, reproduction (print or digital) of up to 75% of a copyrighted work is permitted.

For quality assurance purposes (e.g., peer review), up to 15% of a copyrighted work can be sent to individual third parties.

For the purpose of text and data mining, works can be reproduced, structured and standardized in order to create the corpus. The corpus may be made available to a restricted circle for the purpose of joint scientific research or to individual third parties for quality assurance purposes. After completion of the research work, the corpus must either be deleted or handed over to legally recognized institutions (e.g., libraries) for long-term archiving.

How can I find licensed e-resources?

You can use the Primo Knowledge Portal to find licensed e-resources. Use the “Show only” filter and the “Online resources” button to display licensed e-media. TU members can access these from home via VPN or Shibboleth.

In addition, some publishers have granted temporary access rights for TU members. The Universitly Library provides an overview of free online ressources.

How can the University Library help me to obtain materials for inclusion on ISIS?

Journal articles, book chapters

Teaching staff can obtain journal articles that are not available online via the University Library’s Electronic Copy Delivery Service and then put them on ISIS. 


Teaching staff can order e-books needed for online teaching and not available in the University Library. The University Library checks whether licensing is permitted and, if so, purchases the item(s).

Please send an informal email with your acquisition suggestions to: digitale.lehre(at)ub.tu-berlin.de.

Be sure to include the following information: Your name, email address, library card number (if you use your staff ID as your library card, the number of your staff ID), title of the respective course, author, title and other details of the publication.

How can I find open access publications for free use?

To find open access publications, we recommend installing the browser extensions UnpaywallOpen Access Button or CORE.

  • The BASE search engine lists 150 million scientific documents, of which 60% are open access. 
  • Other sources are Google Scholar, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB)
  • DepositOnce, TU Berlin’s repository, contains almost 10,000 open access publications and a large volume of research data generated by TU Berlin members. 
  • Europeana offers a very large quantity of freely available materials, which can be used freely for scientific or educational purposes.

How can I find teaching and learning materials for free use?

On the page “Digital Teaching and Learning Materials”, we recommend a selection of suitable portals with Open Educational Resources (OER). These include entire courses (Massive Open Online Courses/MOOCs), lecture recordings, lecture notes, handouts, self-tests and much more besides. The teaching and learning materials come under Creative Commons licenses (CC licenses), which allow free use by third parties under certain conditions.

How can I make my own teaching and learning materials and my own publications freely available?

In order to grant third parties comprehensive rights of use to your teaching and learning materials as well as to your own publications, we recommend using Creative Commons licenses. CC licenses allow more extensive use of works than provided for by copyright legislation. CC licenses are internationally valid and based on standardized license agreements. The University Library of TU Berlin recommends CC licenses CC BY 4.0 and CC BY-SA 4.0, as these comply with open access guidelines.

When using CC-licensed materials, the title, originator’s name, CC license, link to the CC license and the URL of the original material must be stated.

The Open Access team of the University Library (Contact: openaccess(at)ub.tu-berlin.de) will gladly help you select the right license for your publications and with the legal use of CC-licensed materials.

How can I publish my works via open access?

The University Library provides various services to help researchers make their works available as primary publications via open access (gold open access).

In order to ensure worldwide access to your own publications that have already appeared elsewhere, you can often publish your works as secondary publications via open access (green open access). Whether a secondary or parallel publication via open access is legally permitted depends on the conditions in your publishing contract and the publisher’s general conditions. The University Library’s Open Access team (openaccess(at)ub.tu-berlin.de) offers its Self-Archiving Service to help you check the legal requirements.

Why do I have to assign a license for documents in ISIS?

We wish to make it possible for as many documents as possible to be made available for you and the students on a permanent basis.

The statutory regulations of Section 60A UrhWissG and the guidelines of the Senate Chancellery for Higher Education and Research limit the provision of copyright protected material to the duration of a course only.

With the help of the licenses (see "Which licenses are available in ISIS"), we can automatically make precisely those documents non-viewable for which it is necessary to do so.

How long do my documents remain viewable in ISIS?

Documents made available in accordance with Section 60a may not continue to be available after the course has ended. In order to be able to implement this guideline, documents will be automatically set to non-viewable after the relevant date for licenses marked as "ungeprüft" (unchecked) or "urheberrechtlich geschützt (nach § 60a UrhG bereitgestellt)" (copyright protected (made available in accordance with Section 60a UrhG)). Due to the possibility to retake an examination, this date is set for 13 months after the start of the semester (end of October or end of April).


  • Documents with the above licenses submitted in the summer semester 2017 will be set to non-viewable on 30.04.2018.
  • Documents with the above licenses submitted in the winter semester 2017/2018 will be set to non-viewable on 31.10.2018.

Which licenses are available in ISIS?

From 16 May 2017, documents will automatically be assigned the "license unchecked" status. You can then assign the appropriate license.  This enables "Section 60a documents" or documents with an undefined license to be automatically set to non-viewable. The following license categories are available:

  • Lizenz ungeprüft (License unchecked)
    All documents receive this license category when generated.
  • Urheberrechtlich geschützt (nach § 60a UrhG (Neu) bereitgestellt)  (Copyright protected (provided in accordance with Section 60a UrhG (new))
    This license is to be assigned to all excerpts (see above for permitted quantities) which are provided in accordance with Section 60a UrhG (new). This applies, for example, to scans of individual sections from textbooks.
  • Mit Genehmigung des Urhebers(with permission of the author)
    You can assign this license if you have received permission to publish the text from the author.
  • Freie Inhalte(Open Content)
    This includes 
  • Gemeinfrei(works in the public domain)
    Works by authors who have been dead more than 70 years or works which appeared prior to 1920

Am I allowed to share materials made available on ISIS with third parties?

According to the ISIS Terms of Use, the right of access and the right of use are not transferable and only you are entitled to them. Materials protected by copyright may not be shared with third parties. You are free to use and share materials under free licenses (Creative Commons licenses).

Where can I obtain further information?