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Fair dealing

What is fair dealing?

Fair Dealing is a legal term used to establish whether a use of a copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright.

There is no statutory definition of fair dealing, instead each individual use has to be looked at within the specific circumstances.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKPO) states “The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work.

UK Intellectual Property Office 2014. Exceptions to copyright: Research. What is fair dealing?

There are some general factors to consider:

  • Is the amount of the work to be copied reasonable and appropriate to the purpose?  
  • Does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it and competes with the copyright owner's exploitation of the work, for instant by avoiding purchase of a legitimate copy, then it is unlikely to be considered ‘fair’.

Fair dealing applies to literary, dramatic, musical, artistic or typographical works, not just text-based works. It does not cover the copying of printed music.

What is not fair dealing?

  • An entire work like books, music, films.
  • Unrestricted access to any copyright material.
  • Making a high resolution copy available or one that would cause rights holders to lose revenue.
  • Not using for the purposes outlined in the exception; for example, it should relate to instruction or examination, research and private study, criticism or review, or news reporting.

Page last updated on Wednesday 9 March 2016 at 11.12am.

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