Copyright & Plagiarism

This guide is adapted from:

Intellectual Property Department (HKSAR). (2020). Copyright in Education in Hong Kong.

What is Copyright?

COPYRIGHT is part of the overall structure of law which protects creative effort: the law of 'intellectual property'. Copyright law gives to the creator of the works the exclusive rights to:

  • copy,
  • issue copies to the public (publishing),
  • rent copies of the works to the public (e.g. films, computer programs, sound recordings, comic books etc.),
  • make copies of works available on the INTERNET,
  • perform, show or play works in public,
  • broadcast works by wireless or cable; and
  • adapt (e.g. translating a work or adapting a two-dimensional plan to a three dimensional object.)

It is governed by the Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528) and the Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance 2022.

What Does the Law of Copyright Protect?

Copyright protects the expression of ideas. The written expression of an idea is called a 'work' in copyright law. Here are examples of 'works' which can be protected in the Hong Kong SAR-

  • literary works (e.g. books, lyrics)
  • dramatic works (include dance or mime)
  • music (the composer's rights)
  • artistic graphics and sculpture
  • photographs
  • computer software
  • sound recordings (a person who makes a sound recording has separate rights from the composer and performer)
  • films
  • broadcasts (a broadcaster can have separate rights from the author, performer or recording studio)
  • cable programmes
  • typographical lay-outs of published editions of works

Copyright applies to all works even if they originate outside Hong Kong. Copyright is automatic, no formal registration is required to claim copyright, and it can be licensed/assigned to another party. 

What isn’t protected by copyright?

Copyright protects the authorship of an original work, including the skills and labour of an author. Therefore, the following is not protected:

  1. Works which are trivial or involve little skill and labour of an author such as titles, names, and short phrases
  2. Mere ideas in a work
  3. Works in public domain

How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?

Copyright is time-limited, and in Hong Kong how long copyright lasts depends on the format of the work, but in most cases, it will last for 50 years after the death of the author/creator.

The Copyright Ordinance of the Hong Kong SAR provides exemptions for copying of copyright works in schools under limited circumstances. Photocopying of copyright works should never be the first option adopted in the classroom. We recommend the following approach -

  1. Always try to create your own materials. You can then authorise their reproduction to your heart's content.
  2. If you really need to copy a work, try to get permission from the copyright owner, publisher or the licensing bodies.
  3. Use the exemptions in the Copyright Ordinance to make copies for limited purposes.

Making use of the exemptions

Exemptions can be useful when teachers or students are proposing to copy a very limited passage from a publication. It is important to understand the underlying principles of exemptions, set out in the introductory provisions (Section 37) of Division III of the Copyright Ordinance. The primary consideration is that 'the act (here we are talking of copying) does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work by the copyright owner and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright owner.'

To decide whether your dealing with a copyrighted work is “fair”, you need to consider all the circumstances, in particular:

  • the purpose and nature of the dealing, including whether such dealing is for non-profit-making purpose and whether it is of a commercial nature;
  • the nature of the work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion dealt with in relation to the work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the dealing on the potential market for or value of the work.

The following example would be considered 'fair':

  • a student copying a small portion of a copyrighted work and incorporating it in his project for illustration with acknowledgement of the source of the work.

But the following example would NOT be considered 'fair':

  • a student copying the whole or a large portion of a textbook because he believes the textbook is too expensive (this is not fair dealing because the amount is too great and the market for the book was adversely affected).

Other exemption for reprographic copying

For teaching or learning purposes

Teachers and students are permitted to make reprographic copies of artistic works or passages from literary, dramatic or musical works 'to a reasonable extent' for teaching or learning purpose provided that -

  • where a teacher makes the copying, it is done for giving instructions on behalf of an educational establishment;
  • where a student makes the copying, it is done for receiving instructions in a specified course of study provided by an educational establishment;
  • there is no licensing scheme available in respect of the works being copied; and
  • after the copy has been made pursuant to the exemption it is not sold, offered for sale or hired to others.

For examination purpose

A teacher has more latitude to use reprographic copies of literary, artistic or dramatic works where the copying is done solely for the purpose of setting examination questions or communicating examination questions to candidates or answering examination questions. But after the copy has been made for examination purposes, it may not be sold, offered for sale or hired to others.

Research or private study

The Copyright Ordinance of the Hong Kong SAR allows fair dealing in any type of copyright work for the purpose of research or private study. 'Fair dealing' can include copying or any other of the restricted acts in copyright (e.g. performance, recording, adapting). If you translate a reasonable passage of text as an exercise in developing language skills, that would be considered 'fair dealing'. To decide whether an act is 'fair dealing' the law requires you to consider:

  • the purpose and nature of the dealing, including whether the dealing is for a nonprofit-making purpose and whether the dealing is of a commercial nature;
  • the nature of the work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion dealt with in relation to the work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the dealing on the potential market for or value of the work.

Relationship between the exemptions

Each of the above exemptions operates independently. For example, where an act of copying by a teacher or a student is not covered by the reprographic copying exemption in section 45, the act could still be covered by the 'fair dealing' exemption if all the criteria for 'fair dealing' are satisfied.

Making sound and video recordings of broadcast or cable programmes

Educational establishments are allowed to make recordings to show to students at the school for teaching purposes (not entertainment). But this sort of recording is only allowed provided you do not clip off the credits at the beginning or end.

It is not a problem if the actual recording is made outside the school (e.g. at a teacher's home) for the purposes of teaching in the teacher's school. The recording must not be done 'for gain': that is, you can't set up a commercial service making such recordings for schools. Also, the recording cannot subsequently be hired or sold to third parties.

Playing sound and video recordings

You may show or play a sound or video recording (even if there is a licensing scheme in existence) without infringing copyright provided that all three of the following conditions are satisfied:

  • the playing is in an educational establishment
  • the playing is to an audience consisting wholly or mainly of teachers, pupils, their parents or guardians and other persons directly connected with the activities of the educational establishment
  • the playing is for the purpose of giving or receiving instruction

Works created by students

Copyright in students' works belongs to the students.

Works created by staffs

Copyright in works made by teachers for the school in the course of their employment (even if done at home) will normally belong to the employer. The followings are extracted from the YCCECE Staff Handbook section 6.7.6 - 6.7.7:

  • All teaching materials by staff members during their employment period shall remain the property of the College.
  • Copyrights in any materials produced by staff shall remain with the College if there is support from the College, in terms of time, finances, manpower deployment or facilities, in or during the course of producing the materials.

Intellectual Property Department. (2013, September 5). Copyright in Education (Student version) [Video]. YouTube.

Intellectual Property Department. (2013, September 5). Copyright in Education(Teacher version) [Video]. YouTube.

What is Plagiarism?

If you look up “plagiarism” on Dictionary, Cambridge English Dictionary says Plagiarism is “the process or practice of using another person’s ideas or work and pretending that it is your own”.

As defined in the YCCECE Student’s Handbook:

Plagiarism is a particular form of cheating and is defined as an unacknowledged use, as one’s own, of work of another person, whether or not such work has been published.  (Section 5.14)

Further, in section 8.3.1, it illustrates Plagiarism with two examples:

  • copying material from any source and trying to pass it off as your own work (this includes visual images in addition to standard written text)
  • paraphrasing material without appropriate acknowledgement and not in accordance with APA referencing conventions

Why Avoid Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is a serious offence of which the College has zero tolerance. Students who commit Plagiarism will be referred to the Student Disciplinary Committee and will be subject to disciplinary action. (Section 5.14)

Plagiarism is not only relevant when taking an exam, but also in submitted an assessment. If you use another person’s ideas or work without acknowledgement, you are committing plagiarism.

How to Avoid Plagiarism?

In Student Handbook section 8.4, it suggests students should

  • take careful notes so that they know where they got the information
  • keep track of all the sources they have used for each assignment
  • cite all their sources in their finished work, distinguishing carefully between their own ideas/work and those taken from others
  • include all their sources in the Reference s section, normally included at the end of the paper
  • plan ahead and avoid doing their work at the very last minute
  • seek approval from their lecturers if they would like to use their previous papers or research as the foundation of their current paper or project
  • consult lecturers if they are in any doubt about anything

To learn more about using APA citation style to acknowledge other’s work, please refers to our library guide, Citing Sources in APA Style (7th edition).

Plagiarism checking tool

Turnitin promotes academic integrity, streamline grading and feedback, deter plagiarism, and improve student outcomes.

More copyright information can be found in:

More plagiarism information can be found in:

 (Updated on 22 October 2020)