Fair dealing

The Copyright Act has a number of fair dealing provisions that allow for limited use of copyright material for specified purposes without requiring permission from the copyright owner. These provisions relate to literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, and their derivatives, as well as audio-visual items.

Fair dealing applies to the following purposes:

Staff wishing to use material for teaching purposes should refer to Copyright information for teaching.

Fair dealing for research or study

Individuals may rely on this provision to use or copy limited amounts of copyright material for the purposes of research or study. Research is defined as the 'diligent and systematic enquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover facts and principles'. Study is defined as 'the application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge, as by reading, investigation or reflection; the cultivation of a particular branch of learning, science or art'. This provision is not limited to formal courses but also includes people conducting study or research under their own direction.

The Copyright Act has determined that the following amounts are fair for literary, dramatic and musical works:

  • the whole or part of an article from an issue of a newspaper, magazine or journal;
  • more than one article from an issue of a newspaper, magazine or journal if each article is for the same research or course of study;
  • if copying text or printed music from a hard copy edition of 10 or more pages, you may copy 10% of the number of pages or one chapter, whichever is the greater;
  • if copying text or printed music from an electronic edition, you may copy 10% of the number of words or one chapter, whichever is greater.

There is no equivalent practical guide for works less than 10 pages, artistic works or audio-visual items. If you wish to use these materials you will need consider each case on its merits and determine if your dealing is fair by considering the following five factors:

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

Fair dealing for criticism or review

Copyright material may be reproduced for the purpose of criticism or review as long as appropriate acknowledgement is given and that the use is fair. The criticism or review must be genuine. If you are only using the copyright material as an example or to illustrate a point rather than specifically commenting on the material or underlying ideas then you cannot rely on this provision.

Fair dealing for parody or satire

Copyright material may be used for parody and satire as long as the use is fair. The Act has not defined parody or satire, so the dictionary definition of the terms apply. The Macquarie dictionary defines parody as "a humorous or satirical imitation..." and satire as "the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, etc in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly etc".

If using material under this provision, it is important that the moral rights of the copyright owner or creator are considered.

Fair dealing for reporting the news

Copyright material may be used for the purposes of reporting the news as long appropriate acknowledgement is given and the use is fair. The news must be reported in a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, film or communication. The main reason for using the material must be to report or comment on the news rather then to merely entertain. 

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

Fair dealing for access by persons with a disability

A new fair dealing exception came into effect on the 22 December 2017 for access by persons with a disability. For more information go to the Assisting people with disabilities page.