The Aga Khan University recognizes and respects the body of intellectual property rights and is committed to fulfilling its ethical obligations regarding the use of copyright protected works.
The Copyright Office supports faculty, staff and students by advising and training on the usage of various materials and whether further permissions may be required. Clearance permissions may be necessary if, materials to be distributed are course packs, instructional materials, posting of materials on e-learning platforms/ intranet, photocopying and digital reproduction.
What is copyright?
Copyright is an area of Intellectual property law which protects the various ways in which an individual expresses their creativity. The idea is not enough, it needs further to be translated into something which can be seen, touched or heard, by a process of recording. This can be done either by writing it (literary works), painting or carving it (artistic works), performing it (dramatic works), photographing it, building it (architectural works) recording the sound and video (music, films and audio visual works) and broadcasting it.
Once any such works are created, copyright automatically exists to protect that work. This means that, it is exclusive to the original creator (s) or owner (s) and only they can control how that work is distributed and used. That protection will last for the life of the creator, and a further 50 to 70 years after they die.
The importance of copyright lies in its recognition of the creator and their economic right to benefit from the creation of works to the exclusion of everyone else. When individuals can safely control the distribution and reproductions of their works, it encourages others to also create works because the law protects others from wrongly benefitting from the said works.
The copyright owner controls how they want their work to be used, meaning that, people have to ask for permissions before they use those works. Any use going against the wishes of the author is illegal. This violation is an infringement of copyright, of which various penalties exist including fines and imprisonment. However, some exceptions exist in copyright to disqualify infringement.
Some materials can be freely used without asking for any permissions from the owner. These may include:
1) Public Domain works
Works which are completely free to use by the public because the copyright has expired (the work is very old); or the copyright is invalid (e.g. facts); or the owner has revoked their copyright allowing others to use the work freely.
2) Creative Commons licensed works
The owner has allowed the works to be shared and used in various ways without the need to ask for permissions. The use must however correspond with the type of license given by the owner. More information available at
3) Fair Use works
One is allowed to use a copyright protected work without permission from the owner only if they use a limited portion of it, for a specific purpose and only for a limited time. To use this defense, the use must fall within any of these categories: the use is for private study/research, teaching, criticism, review/commentary, parody/ satire, news reporting.
Along with the need for the work to fall within any of these categories, four important factors must be met. You should positively be able to answer whether the purpose of the use is fair? What is the nature of the work you want to use? What amount of the original work are you using? What effect does your use of the copyrighted work have on the market of the original work?
Further guidance can be found in the Fair Use guidelines and associated materials available on the download section.
4) Licensed works
A license gives official permission to use a work for a certain duration so that, permissions are no longer necessary as long as the license is still valid.
Why seek permissions?
It ensures the lawful use of materials which reduces the risk of copyright infringement and the underlying penalties. It is the responsibility of each user to obtain permissions for the works they would like to use by personally contacting the copyright holder.
For any complex clearance requests, please fill in the Copyright Clearance Form.
The Copyright Office shall endeavor to respond to your request in a timely, reliable and effective manner, however, we shall not be responsible for any delays in the processing of clearance requests. Kindly review the Copyright Policy for the clearance process and various copyright guidelines.
The Copyright Office is primarily a facilitator to assist the organization in getting permissions when using copyrighted materials. We will advise internally based on the jurisdiction/country and its applicable laws. The Copyright Office is not a legal office and only gives direction on the copyright issues presented to it as well as ensuring internal copyright compliance. Users may contact the
Office of the General Counsel or seek external legal advice for any matters pertaining to legal advice.
For any other, contact us at