Department of Engineering

IT Services

Some notes on digital resources and the law

Even when you're not redistributing digital material, you need to take care when using resources copied from elsewhere. You may also wish to restrict the uses to which your own creations are put. This document doesn't aim to offer comprehensive information about these issues, but highlights some problems encountered by local programmers and authors of paper and Web material.

Some of the points may sound legalistic and pendantic, nevertheless they have caused trouble here in the past. Because of the prestige of our institution, misuse of material (e.g. Trademarks used in derogatory fashion) is more likely to be acted upon than if the material were on a personal page elsewhere. Some of the more common problems involve

  • Images from elsewhere used without permission or credits
  • Use of song lyrics
  • Misuse of Cambridge University trademarks
  • Misuse of company trademarks (in particular, where the company concerned isn't presented in a good light)

External organisations may insist that the material be corrected and (in the case of paper publications) that old copies be pulped, which may prove tedious and expensive.

Copyright Law

Copyright problems are especially common on the WWW. Software, documentation and images might not be protected from copying (they might even be free), but that doesn't mean that you can always do whatever you want with it. If you copy music, videos, images or text from somewhere, and then you put them on the WWW, it's a good idea to keep the material and information on its copyright status together in case you're challenged (the department is challenged a few times a year by lawyers or companies, regarding online material, so beware!)

Some terms you'll commonly encounter in documentation are

  • Copyleft - all modified and extended versions of the free program need to be made freely available too.
  • Royalty-free - You can freely reproduce the material, but you may well have to purchase it first
  • Open source - you have access to the source code - see

Restricted Use

Resources might require a license even if the license is free. Free or not, there may be restrictions. Note that

  • Programs covered by a site license or brought at educational discounts (Matlab, Acrobat, etc) might be restricted to educational use only, or only for use on-site
  • The University identifiers can only be used in certain situations

Other restrictions might be that the material can only be used for non-profit purposes.

Trademarks and Logos

Nowadays you might even need to be careful with the use of individual words.Trademarks protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services. Their use is covered by laws which may vary between countries. Here are some examples

  • Unix - according to the owners, this shouldn't be used as a generic term. It should be used with one of the following credits
    • "UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group"
    • "UNIX is a registered trademark in the United States and other countries, licensed exclusively through X/Open Company Ltd."
  • Windows - it says in the Microsoft Windows trademark guidelines that you are required to 'include an attribution of Microsoft's ownership of the Windows trademark within the credit notice section of your documentation or advertisement. Follow this format:
    "Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and other countries."'
  • Mozilla - even companies producing "free" software strictly enforce their trademark rights. There are tight restrictions on your ability to use the Mozilla name and logos. Read the small-print (remember, you agreed to the terms of their license when you first used the program!)
  • Cambridge University - "The University names and arms are registered trademarks and may only be used with permission of the University or by registered licence holders".

Though companies and organisations supply these guidelines you will often read publications that haven't followed them. Computing manuals usually do, and computing books often do. Publications often include something like the following at their start to cover themselves -

     All brand names and product names mentioned in this document are 
     trademarks or service marks of their respective companies. 
     Any omission or misuse (of any kind) of services or trademarks 
     should not be regarded as intent to infringe on the property of others.

Licensing your own material

If you are considering making your work freely available, you might want to make use of these licenses

These widely adopted documents include standard disclaimers which might prove useful.

Local Web material

Material stored on web servers will generally be protected in the same way as printed material. When you put your work on a web site, it's worth marking each page with the international copyright mark followed by the name of the copyright owner and year of publication. In addition, you could include information about the extent to which you are content for others to use your copyright material without permission. Many of our official pages include the following HTML code

     <a href="">&copy;</a> 
     2006  Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge<br />

If you need to refer to a registered trademark in an HTML file, you can use the &#174; or &trade; sequences, which appear as ® and ™

See Also