Blackline masters

Many publishers sell resources with a licence (usually confined to the purchaser of the resource) to copy some or all of the contents of the resource. These are commonly referred to as Blackline Masters.

A teacher can copy a resource under a direct licence from the publisher, and does not need to rely on the educational statutory licence.

A teacher’s use made under a direct licence from the publisher is affected by whether:

  • the publisher’s licence only applies to the purchaser of the resource
  • the purchaser is a school, whether the licence applies to all staff of that school
  • the licence covers uses allowed by the educational statutory licence, or only uses that are outside the educational statutory licence
  • the licence applies to all types of uses (such as scanning, uploading to learning management systems, and emailing students) or only some (such as photocopying)
  • the wording on the blackline master pages about what teachers can do with the pages is intended to describe what teachers can do under the educational statutory licence, and/or what they can do under the publisher’s direct licence.

The Copyright Agency needs to determine whether teachers made the copies in reliance on direct licences from publishers, or under the educational statutory licence and we rely on the terms of a publisher’s licence to do this. In addition, the Copyright Agency does not always have information about whether the teachers who copied blackline masters were the purchasers of the resource.

Where the Copyright Agency has information that schools’ use of a work is directly licensed by a publisher, then we do not allocate payment to that work from the copyright fees it receives. We understand, however, that a proportion of schools’ uses of blackline masters are made outside the scope of the publishers’ licences – for example, by teachers who did not purchase the resource. For this reason, under its current Distribution Policy, the Copyright Agency pays publishers for schools’ copying of blackline masters, at a discounted rate, in recognition that some of the copies are covered by direct licences and some are not.

To assist the Copyright Agency to work out whether a teacher’s use of a resource is covered by the publisher’s direct licence, or by the educational statutory licence (or neither), the Copyright Agency recommends that publishers review their terms of use for the resource as a whole, and the wording on any blackline master pages in the resource, to make sure that:

  • the wording on any blackline master pages is consistent with the wording of the terms of use for the resource as a whole; and
  • the terms of use for the resource clearly identify any uses that are directly licensed by the publisher.

If you are unsure about how your terms of use would be treated in the Copyright Agency, please feel free to contact Member Services team for clarification on our toll free number 1800 066 844, or by emailing

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