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Fair dealing

This is the right granted by copyright laws to reproduce limited portions of copyrighted works without permission, and without infringing the interest of the creator(s) or copyright owner(s). It is your responsibility to assess whether the material you wish to use is likely to infringe those "legitimate interests".

The term fair dealing is used in the UK and regions such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It covers reproduction of published material for criticism and review, non-commercial research, and news reporting.

In the US, the term fair use is adopted, with different limits and guidelines. These are based on case law rather than copyright legislation.

Fair dealing for illustration for instruction

Limited amounts of material can be reproduced for assessment and to illustrate a point for the purposes of instruction, subject to fair dealing.
  • use only as much as is needed to make the point
  • non-commercial use only 
  • attribute the source (unless impossible e.g. exam)
  • copying must be carried out by a person giving or receiving instruction (or preparing)

Fair dealing for non-commercial research and private study

A certain amount of copying is allowed for non-commercial research and private study.

Although the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act does not clearly define the amount of original material that can be copied, the Society of Authors issued guidance in 1965:

  • one article from any one issue of a journal (even if that one article is the whole issue)
  • one chapter or up to 5% (whichever is greater) of a book or similar publication
  • up to 10% of a short book of up to 200 pages (CILIP, formerly Library Association, guidelines)
  • one poem or short story of up to 10 pages from an anthology, or
  • the report of one case in law reports.

You may make a copy for yourself or make a single copy for another person. Fair dealing does not cover the making of multiple photocopies, which can only be done under licence (if you are a member of staff), or with the permission of the copyright owner.

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

If you wish to make copies from electronic resources, the Publishers' Association and JISC have issued guidelines with similar limits to those issued by the Society of Authors.

Fair dealing for criticism, review or quotation

You may reproduce limited amounts of material for the purposes of criticism, review or quotation. 

  • use only as much as is needed to make the point
  • attribute the source
  • use must be fair to the rights holders
  • applies to all media, not just text (would be difficult to argue use whole photo is "fair" to rights holders)

The Society of Authors advises that permission need not be sought for short extracts provided that the content is quoted in the context of "criticism or review" and not just to embellish the text. The material you use should have been published, the amount you include should not exceed that which you need for the critique or review, and you must acknowledge the source.

If you want to quote from prose (fiction or non-fiction):

  • not more than 400 words
  • or a total of 800 words in a series of extracts, none exceeding 300 words.

If you want to quote from poetry:

  • not more than 40 lines from a poem, providing that this does not exceed a quarter of the poem.

Poetry does not include song lyrics, which are not covered by fair dealing.

When deciding if the extract you wish to use is covered by fair dealing, consider:

  • the length and importance of the extract
  • the amount quoted in relation to your commentary
  • the extent to which your work competes with the work quoted.

Works that are out of copyright can of course be quoted beyond these limits, providing you are using an edition that was published more than 25 years ago, and providing you acknowledge the source of the extract.

Fair dealing for parody, caricature and pastiche

You may reproduce limited amounts of material for the purposes of parody, caricature and pastiche. The use must be fair to the rights holders and this exception cannot be overridden by contract.

Fair dealing for text and data mining

Material can be copied for the purposes of text and data mining.

  • can make whole copies
  • must have lawful access to the material e.g. open access material, access by paid subscription
  • must attribute the source
  • this exception cannot be overridden by any contracts