Legal Issues in Digital Teaching

Am I allowed to include pictures from the internet in my presentation slides?



Professor Mustermann would like to illustrate the relevance of the topic of waves by showing his students where we find waves everywhere in nature. To do this, he looks for corresponding pictures from the Internet to include in his presentation slides.


Professor Mustermann can include the images in his presentation slides by invoking Section 60a UrhG. He can also use images that have a free Creative Commons licence. Since Mr. Mustermann is looking for images on a very common topic, it is highly likely that he will find them on common internet portals.


Professor Musterfrau would like to deal with the needs of people in general and customer needs in particular in her marketing lecture, using the model of Maslow's pyramid of needs. For this purpose, she looks for a suitable picture of the model on the Internet to include it in her slides.


In this example, a use in the sense of the right of quotation is obvious as long as Ms. Musterfrau does not change the model image, indicates the source of the image, and deals with the content of the image in a scientific way.

Likewise, as in the example above, the option of use within the framework of §60a UrhG is available and the use of an image with a free CC licence.

Legal Considerations

Use for Illustrating Teaching or Learning (Section 60a UrhWissG)

Until now, copyright law had an astonishing loophole: there was no explicit permission to present other people's material in lectures. At most, this was possible within the framework of the right to quote.

This loophole is closed by § 60a Copyright Act , which comes into force on 1 March 2018. The use of digital third-party material for illustration purposes in teaching is thus expressly permitted, within the legal limits, in any appropriate form, i.e., also in slides during a lecture.

The limit is up to 15% of a published work. Section 60a(2) specifically states that, among other things, images may also be used in their entirety for this purpose. Likewise, the scope of presentation is limited to the students of a course.

Use Images with a Free CC Licence

If the presentation is later to be published as an OER on the OpenLearnWare-Platform, for example as part of a lecture recording, it is a good idea to look for images with a free Creative Commons License (CC) .

There are now many image portals on the internet where you can find images that have been published under a free CC licence. CC licences allow fundamental use with regard to reproduction, further distribution, and making available to the public. The conditions under which the author grants these rights of use (for example, whether editing is permitted) and the Rules for the correct attribution of a CC-licensed work must be observed.

Not all CC licences allow free use of a work (see details in the Section “Securing Free Use” on the CC licences page ). It is necessary to read the terms of the licence before using the work.

Caution with Images of People

Caution should be exercised with images that depict people who are not merely an accessory (e.g. people pictured by chance in front of a sight). In this case, you should contact the photographer and clarify whether the persons depicted have given permission for their image to be published in accordance with the principles of the right to one's own image (§22 Art Copyright Act). If individual persons are visible in a picture and if the statement of the picture concerns the presence or activity of the persons, then permission from the persons is obligatory.

When using images with a CC licence, check whether it covers the permission of the person depicted.

What alternatives are available…

if the image use is not to take place within the framework of §60a UrhWissG and no suitable images under CC licence can be found?

If suitable images are found on the internet but are not published under a free CC licence, and if the image is not to be used within the framework of §60a UrhG because, for example, a later publication as OER is planned, the following further options are available:

Check whether integration is possible within the framework of the right of citation § 51 UrhG (Copyright Act)

Within the framework of the right of citation § 51 UrhG , it is possible to incorporate copyright-protected works or parts of a work (including, for example, images) into one's own work (e.g., presentation slides) without having to ask the author for permission. However, a prerequisite for this is, among other things, that there is a corresponding purpose for the citation. For example, the use of images to “spruce up” one's own work is not an appropriate citation purpose. A purpose of quotation is always given if the quotation underlines or explains one's own remarks or if one deals with the quotation within one's own remarks.

You should pay attention to the following when applying citation law:

  • Quote purpose
  • Citation Scope
  • Do not change
  • Source citation

Detailed information on the right to quote

Check whether it is possible to make use of images that are in the public domain

Works whose authors have been dead for more than 70 years are no longer subject to copyright protection. If the works were also published more than 70 years ago, they are in the public domain and can therefore in principle be used freely. However, the use is sometimes still limited by the rights of third parties (e.g., rights of co-authors who died later, rights of publishers). This should be clarified.

Legally Verified

The content of this page has been reviewed by Jan Hansen, Ass. jur.

Further Legal Issues