As part of the U3A movement, our U3A needs to observe copyright rules. What follows is an indication of some important things to bear in mind; but it is important also to look at the U3A ‘authorised version’, which is available to view on the U3A national website 

Note: this page will only come up on the national website if you have registered as a member, and logged in.

In most cases copyright is protected for 70 years after the death of the originator(s) of a work. Beyond that point, usually material can be used freely, but it can be dangerous to assume that! It always needs checking out carefully – things like revised editions and new prefaces, for example, can complicate matters (and Peter Pan is protected by copyright for an unlimited period!)

So, what about getting permission to use work which you believe is still covered by copyright?

Books, journals and magazines

Through the Third Age Trust, the Winchcombe Area  U3A has a Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) licence which allows groups to make multiple copies of extracts from books and magazine/journal articles. Note the word ‘extract’; again, you should read the copyright information on the national website for full details, but to give some idea, extracts can be:

  • up to 5% of a book (for short story and poetry anthologies, up to ten pages in total); or
  • one book chapter; or
  • one magazine/journal article; or
  • one scene (only) from a play.
The licence does not, for example, permit the copying of a whole play.

One  can alternatively go direct to a copyright holder for permission, but note that:
  • Originators have initial copyright in their work, but may have licensed it on ( to publisher), so they won’t necessarily be able to give permission. To go direct, one needs to locate the actual copyright holder.
  • Permission may be given without charge, for something like a U3A, but that can’t be guaranteed. 
  • On a good many websites, material may have been reproduced without permission, so permission from that site itself may not protect against breach of someone else’s copyright.
Maps and newspapers

The CLA licence does NOT cover maps or newspapers, which would need a separate permission application to the appropriate individual or (usually) organisation. Again, they may or may not charge for permission.


Live, recorded and sheet music can be something of a minefield! As the Third Age Trust says, ‘in a song, lyrics are protected as literary work; the composition is protected as musical work; and [a] recording is protected as a sound recording’. As always, please read the full information on the national website, but here is an outline:

Sheet music must almost always be paid for, unless the work is out of copyright (anything
written over 150 years ago will usually be safe, though be careful: a more recent arrangement made for a different group of instruments may still be in copyright).

Recorded music played in public is likely to be used by a few U3A groups (e.g. for dancing). Use of the music, and lyrics if any, is usually covered by a PRS (Performing Rights Society) licence held by the venue. If you are using recorded music, you need to check with your venue that they have such a licence. Provided they have, no further action in that area is needed. (The venue’s PRS licence normally covers any
live music events too.)

Playing recorded music in public also requires a PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) licence. PPL looks after the interests of owners of the recordings themselves (e.g. record companies). The Third Age Trust has a PPL licence which gives all U3A groups permission to play recorded music in public.

In general, therefore, groups should not need to worry about using recorded music in a U3A group context if the venue has a PRS licence – but please still read the information on the national website!


The Trust says, ‘Interest groups are usually covered by an exemption in the copyright law which allows the use of videos or DVDs for educational purposes’. (Not surprisingly, showing videos purely for entertainment is not covered by the exemption!)


Copyright questions for photos probably won’t arise for most groups. However, one should still be cautious; in newsletters for example, photos with group reports will usually have been taken by U3A members themselves, but if one is used from elsewhere, permission should be obtained from the copyright holder. (If you say it’s for a community organisation's newsletter with a small circulation, given away free, you are quite likely to get the permission without a charge).

If any member of Winchcombe Area U3A is in doubt about some aspect of copyright, please contact us in the first instance; we will try to clarify matters, if necessary by seeking advice from the national office.

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