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There are 'Fair Dealing' exceptions within UK Copyright legislation which permit copyright material to be reproduced without permission in certain circumstances and for specific purposes.

There is no concise legal definition of 'Fair Dealing'. It depends on the specific circumstances. The UK Intellectual Property Office states that the key question is “How would a fair minded and honest person have dealt with the work?” You should consider:

  • Could the economic interests of the copyright owner be damaged by my use of the work? Is it a substitute for purchase?
  • Am I using a greater proportion of the work than is reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances?

It is important to credit the author and source of any work which you use by adding an attribution (reference) statement.

There are several fair dealing exceptions related to educational use:

  • Non-commercial research or private study

    This exception allows you to make a copy of an extract of a copyright work for the purposes of your own private study. You should acknowledge use of the work by including an attribution statement. Only a single copy of each extract is permitted and it must not be shared with others.

    The Society of Authors has published guidance on the amount that may be copied. In practice this means a single copy of:

    • No more than one chapter of a book
    • No more than one article of a journal issue
    • No more than one single case report from a law report
    • No more than 5% of a given work, whichever is greater

    Anyone using a library photocopier or downloading an extract from the internet (unless under the terms of a licence) is relying upon this exception and should therefore take care to be compliant.

  • Illustration for Instruction

    The Act permits copying of extracts of works in any medium as long as it is for the purpose of "illustration for instruction". This exception can be used to copy material for use specifically in a teaching context provided the instruction is "non commercial".

    The copied material must be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement and it's use should be fair dealing. This means minor uses, such as displaying a few lines of poetry on an interactive whiteboard, are permitted, but uses which would undermine sales of teaching resources are not. Use only as much as is needed to make the point.

  • Examination

    Copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of an examination by way of setting the questions, communicating the questions to the candidates or answering the questions, provided that the questions are accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.

    UK higher education establishments generally consider that the exception extends to formal, summative assessment in the form of courseworks and presentations, theses and projects, as well as traditional exams. However, the exception does not apply to the use of copyright material in any subsequent publication of the material submitted for examination or assessment (e.g. a thesis or dissertation). In these circumstances the permission of the copyright owner must be obtained.

  • Criticism, review, quotation and reporting current events

    Use of any type of copyright work for the purpose of criticism, review or quotation is allowed provided the use is fair dealing, it is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement and it has been made available to the public. When deciding if the extract you wish to use is covered by fair dealing, consider: the length and importance of the extract, and, the amount quoted in relation to your commentary.

    Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of reporting current events is allowed for any type of copyright work other than a photograph. Sufficient acknowledgment will be required.

    The Society of Authors advises that 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.

  • Parody, caricature and pastiche

    The exception permits people to use a small amount of copyright material for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche, without permission from the copyright owner. For example a cartoonist may reference an artwork for a caricature; an artist may use small fragments from a range of films to compose a larger pastiche artwork. The use of the work must be fair dealing.

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