Fair dealing

What is fair dealing?

The Australian Copyright Act 1968 contains what are known as fair dealing provisions which allows individuals to reproduce literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works without obtaining permission from the copyright owner, providing it is done for one of a limited number of purposes and meets the requirements of 'fair dealing' as outlined in the legislation.

These are different to the broader 'fair use' defence available under US copyright law and Australians should be aware of the difference, as fair use is often referred to in relation to the re-use of material on the internet.

What are the provisions?

The most relevant purposes for university staff and students are:

  • Fair dealing for purpose of research or study (ss. 40, 103C)
  • Fair dealing for purpose of criticism or review (ss. 41, 103A)
  • Fair dealing for purpose of parody or satire (ss. 41A, 103AA)

The provision most relevant to staff and students in an educational institution is fair dealing for the purpose of research or study. This allows staff and students to copy literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works as part of their research or study as long as their action meets the fairness test. These are:

  • The purpose of your proposed use must be research or study.
  • The proposed use must be 'fair'.

This is determined by taking into account the following factors:

  • The purpose and character of the dealing
  • The nature of the work or adaptation
  • The possibility of obtaining the work or adaptation within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price
  • The effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of, the work or adaptation
  • The amount and substantiality of the part copied taken in relation to the whole work or adaptation 

How much can I copy?

For the purpose of research or study you can copy

  • Up to one article from an edition of a periodical publication (More than one if they relate to the same research or course of study)
  • Up to 10% of the number of pages of a literary work, or one chapter of a work if it is divided into chapters. The work must be more than 10 pages long.
  • Up to 10% of the number of words for a work in electronic form
  • There are no guidelines for copying of artistic works.

Remember that the fair dealing provisions can only be used by individuals, they generally cannot be used by university staff to copy material for students.

For more details on using the fair dealing provision as part of your research or study see the Australian Copyright Council Information Sheets on 'Fair Dealing and Research or Study'