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University of Cambridge Home Intellectual Property and Copyright in the Digital Environment
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University of Cambridge > CARET > Intellectual Property and Copyright in the Digital Environment

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3.3.4 What are implied licences?
An implied copyright licence arises where all the circumstances suggest that the copyright owner expected their copyright material to be used in the way contemplated.  For example, sending a message to a public discussion list has been compared to sending a letter to the editor of a newsletter and, unless there is clear evidence to the contrary, it is likely that an implied licence would exist allowing:
  • other members of the list to keep a copy of the message;
  • the message to be archived on a website;
  • the message to be forwarded to other interested parties;
  • parts of the message to be quoted elsewhere.
You may have noticed that many people claim that anything which is published on the web is fair game and therefore the subject of an implied licence.  Although this is not the legal position, failure to include a copyright notice will leave open the possibility for others to claim that an implied licence exists.  The owners of web sites can easily displace such claims to implied licences by making explicit statements on the site setting out the extent to which visitors to the sites may copy material. 
Information current as at 12 September 2005.
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