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Library Guide on Copyright for MOOCs

by NUS Libraries and NUS Office of Legal Affairs

Copyright basics

Rights of a Copyright Owner

  • A Copyright Owner has exclusive rights to do the following to his/her creation: 
    • Make a copy of the work
    • Publish the work (i.e. distribute copies to the public)
    • Perform the work in public
    • Communicate the work to the public
    • Make an adaption of the work
    • Authorise anyone else to do any of the above rights! 
Right of Copyright Owner
Example for A Piece of Music
Make a copy of the work

Copying an MP3 of recorded music

"Syncing" background music into a video production

Publish the work (i.e. distribute copies to the public)

Making a video that contains background music

Making that video with the music available for download from the university's website 

Uploading that promotional video to YouTube

Perform the work in public

Live performance of popular songs by a university acapella group

Recorded music played over a sound system at university dining hall or on broadcast radio

Communicate the work to the public

Incorporating a music into a video and uploading that video on a public platform for all to view.

Make an adaptation of the work

Creating a remix of a popular song

Authorize anyone else to do any of the above rights

Only the owner of the piece of music has the rights to allow anyone do the above acts

Source: Singapore Copyright Act (Cap. 63). See also American Council on Education. (2013). Use of Copyrighted Music on College and University Campuses. American Council on Education.

There are 6 broad categories of copyrighted works:

More than one categories of copyrighted works may subsist in a single item.

Take for example this instrumental musical score for a play: 


Figure 1. Score Book Cover

Figure 2. Inside Musical Score

There are multiple copyright subsisting / associated with the above score:

Type of Copyrighted Work
Artistic Work

Sheet cover i.e. Figure 1 above

Musical Work

Musical score (i.e. ♪ ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬) i.e. Figure 2 above 

Literary Work

Lyrics i.e. Figure 2 above

Dramatic Work

Script / Dramatic Instructions (not pictured)

Sound Recording

Recording of the performance of the orchestra + singing (not pictured)


Recording of the performance of the play (not pictured)

See also: Cantrell, S. (n.d.). Libguides: Copyright: for students. Retrieved 4 May 2021, from

What a Copyright DOES NOT Protect

  • Ideas 
  • Titles of Books
  • Trade Names 
  • Layout Design or Integrated Circuits

Source: Law of Intellectual Property of Singapore, 2nd Edition, Ng-Loy Wee Loon

Utilitarian Based Arguments

  • Provides incentive to creators of intellectual property (IP) such a copyright by allowing creator to exploit the IP and thereby recoup the investment in terms of the effort, time and financial resources expended in creating the IP

Morality / Personality Based Arguments 

  • Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
  • The creation is an extension of the author’s personality, and therefore, the author must have control over this aspect of his personality. 

Source: Law of Intellectual Property of Singapore, 2nd Edition, Ng-Loy Wee Loon

"[L]imitations and exceptions for Libraries, Archives, Museums and educational and research institutions, as well as persons with other disabilities, are of critical importance to the individual and collective development of societies. In order to advance and promote culture, science, innovation and education, we believe in the balance of copyright system that not only takes into account the commercial interests of copyrights and rightsholders but also the larger public benefit by enhancing access to this works. Limitations and exceptions have an important role to play in access to knowledge and education." 
Singapore's statement at the 39th Meeting of the Standing Committee of Copyright and Related Rights, World Intellectual Property Organization

Copyright Protection in Singapore Arises Automatically

There is no need to register your copyright to obtain protection – as long as you have reduced your copyright in material form – it is as good as protected!

The "©" symbol is not required for copyright protection.

However, use of the symbol is recommended so that people can identify the owner of the copyright. If you use the © symbol on your works, it makes it more difficult for someone infringing your copyright to argue that they did not know you were the owner.


Duration of copyright is protection depends on the type of copyright work protected:

Best Practice Duration of Protection
Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works

70 years from the end of the year in which the author died

If the work is published after the death of the author, it lasts for 70 years, from the end of the year in which the work was first published

Published editions of literary, dramatic musical or artistic works (layout)

25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published

Sound recordings and films

70 years from the end of the year of release of the sound recording or film 

Broadcasts and cable programmes

50 years from the end of the year of making the broadcast or cable programme


70 years from the end of the year of the performance

These dates are important because when copyright protection expires, works pass into the public domain, and are free for use

 Source: Singapore Copyright Act (Cap. 63), Intellectual Property Office of Singapore Copyright Infopack


We hope that this guide contributes to your research or understanding about Copyright in Singapore. This guide provides a general, and necessarily limited, discussion of various local laws, regulations and cases. The guide does not constitute specialist legal advice.

Foreign Sources. Where foreign sources (e.g. industry best practices) are cited, these will be highlighted. Note that foreign sources only provide guidance and may not be authoritative in Singapore.

Changes in Law. Some of the information on this guide may have been prepared some time ago. Please contact us if you need a comprehensive and up-to-date statement of the relevant law.