Skip to main content

Copyright exceptions

Fair dealing

Fair dealing is the right to reproduce limited portions of copyrighted works without permission. It covers reproduction of published material for:

  • non-commercial research and private study
  • criticism and review
  • reporting of current events.

It applies to literary, dramatic, musical, artistic or typographical works, and not just text-based works. It does not apply to printed music or song lyrics.

You can use material under fair dealing as long as you do not infringe upon the interests of the creator or copyright owner. You should consider the following:

  • Financial benefit: Are you depriving them of revenue?
  • Acquisition: Have you acquired the material fairly and legally?
  • Quantity: Have you used only what is needed?
  • Acknowledgement: Have you acknowledged the author or creator?

It is your responsibility to assess whether the material you wish to use is likely to infringe upon those interests.

The term fair dealing is used in the UK, as well as regions such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It is different to the US term fair use, which has different limits and guidelines that are based on case law rather than copyright legislation.

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 that states you can copy:

  • one article from any one issue of a journal
  • one chapter or up to 5% (whichever is greater) of a book
  • up to 10% of a short book of up to 200 pages
  • one poem or short story of up to 10 pages from an anthology
  • one legal case report.

You may make a copy for yourself or make a single copy for another person.

Fair dealing does not cover multiple photocopies, which can only be done within the limitations of the University CLA license (PDF) or with the permission of the copyright owner.

Criticism, review or quotation

You may reproduce limited amounts of material for the purposes of criticism, review or quotation. Only use what is needed to make the point.

The material you use should have been published. Make sure that you acknowledge the source.

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

  • use a single extract of no more than 400 words
  • use a series of extracts of no more than a total of 800 words, with no single extract exceeding 300 words.

If you want to quote from poetry you can use up to 40 lines from a poem, providing that this does not exceed a quarter of the poem.

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.

This includes modifying artworks or illustrations, using a few lines from a film or song for a comedy sketch, or drawing upon an existing work to comment upon a particular social phenomenon or to make a critique.

Only use what you need. It is not acceptable to copy something in its entirety.

Text and data mining

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

Under fair dealing, you can make whole copies, but you must have lawful access to the material eg open access material. You must attribute the source.