Fair dealing

Provisions in the Copyright Act allow the use of copyright material in certain circumstances without making payment to copyright owners and without the need to seek their permission. This is known as fair dealing. Whether or not the use of copyright material in a particular situation is fair requires consideration of five factors:

  • the purpose and character of the dealing
  • the nature of the item
  • the possibility of obtaining the item within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price
  • the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of, the item
  • in a case where part only of the item is copied, the amount and substantiality of the part copied or communicated in relation to the whole item.

Fair dealing provisions include the following uses:

Research or study

A fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or with audio-visual material does not constitute an infringement of copyright if it is for the purpose of research or study.

For print material it is considered fair to copy 10 per cent or one chapter from a book; one or more articles from a magazine; journal or periodical issue if they are closely related in subject matter; a drawing or photograph. To copy more than this from print and for all other types of material, in determining whether the copying or communication is a fair dealing, a court is directed to consider the five Fair Dealing fairness factors.

Note that fair dealing for research or study applies to copying only, not communications. The Act provides no guidance on how much of a work can be communicated in reliance on the fair dealing provisions, though it is likely that communication by email of copyright work, for example, between two academics or between two students working jointly on a research project may satisfy the test.

To find out more about Fair Dealing for the purpose of research or study, see the Australian Copyright Council's Research or Study information sheet.

Criticism or review

This provision allows copyright material to be reproduced for the purpose of criticism or review, without infringing copyright or requiring permission from the copyright owner. However, a serious critique or review must be undertaken. Using the copyright material simply to enhance or to illustrate a point, is not a fair dealing for criticism or review.

Any work used under this provision must be properly acknowledged, so that the moral rights of the author are respected. Any acknowledgement should identify the author (unless the author is anonymous or has agreed or directed that they not be named) and identify the work from which the copies are taken by its title or other description.

The criticism and review provision may be relevant for staff or students presenting material at a conference, but in order to obtain the protection of this section, the purpose of the dealing must be criticism or review. If the court considers that the real purpose of the dealing was to capitalise on reproducing or publishing another creator's material, the protection will be lost.

Reporting the news

Copyright works can be used or reproduced for the purpose of, or associated with, reporting the news, in print based or broadcast media, without infringing copyright. Sufficient acknowledgement of the work being used must be made.

Musical works cannot be played as part of reporting news under this provision unless the work forms part of the news being reported.

Professional advice

Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works are permitted to be reproduced under the 'fair dealing' category for the purposes of judicial proceedings, or for the purposes of a legal practitioner giving professional advice.

Parody and satire

Provided the use is 'fair', copyright material can be used for the purposes of parody and satire. The Act has not defined parody or satire, so the dictionary definition of the terms are likely to apply. There is no relevant case law in Australia, so the parameters of what can be copied under this exception are unclear. However, the amount of copyright material used, and the context of the parody or satire, are likely to be considered in determining whether parody or satire apply.

Assist people with a disability

Two new fair dealing exceptions were introduced in December 2017 and apply to providing support and access to copyright material by or on behalf of persons with a disability.  This is covered in more detail separately. See more about disability provisions.