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Copyright Exceptions and Fair Dealing

In a limited number of cases the legislator considered the interest of the general public to be more important than the protection granted to copyright owners. These copyright exceptions allow limited use of copyright material in certain circumstances without the need to gain the permission of the rights holder.

Fair dealing exceptions

In the UK, there are a number of ‘fair dealing’ exceptions to copyright law, which means that certain uses of an artistic work do not require permission from the copyright owner so long as the use is considered to be ‘fair’. 

A similar concept - ‘fair use’ - exists in the US but it is a general defence. The UK 'fair dealing' is more limited than the United States doctrine of fair use. The terms ‘fair use’ and ‘fair dealing’ are not interchangeable - an exception that applies in the US may be regarded as an infringement in the UK.

Fair dealing requires a judgment to be made by whoever is carrying out the copying. Every case is different but generally speaking, if the use would not affect sales of the work and if the amount of the work copied is deemed reasonable and appropriate, then that use may be considered as fair.

Quotation, Criticism & Review

These can be considered two different exceptions or two distinct uses covered by the same exception: one for criticism & review and a more general one for quotation. It is allowed to use short extracts of copyright protected works for the purposes of criticism & review, but it will have to be a genuine critique by way of discussion or assessment. It is possible to use quotation for other purposes than criticism & review such as using a short quote in a history book or an academic article. There is a lot of overlap between the two exceptions and both apply to all types of copyright works.  

News Reporting

To report on current events of national or international importance, reporters may sometimes require the use of copyright materials such as short textual extracts or short clips from video footage. The exception does NOT apply to photographs. An event is ‘current’ if it deals with a present issue. 

Parody, caricature and pastiche

Parody, caricature and pastiche refers to a new creative work which is referencing and making use of various existing works to generate new social commentary for humour or ridicule. The exception introduced in 2014 allows individuals to use copyright protected materials for the purpose of ‘parody, caricature and pastiche’ without having to obtain permission from the original author.

Research and private study for non-commercial research

This copyright exception allows students and researchers to make single copies or taking short extracts of works when the use is made for non-commercial research or for private study. The purpose is to offer students and researchers broader access to all types of copyright works and to recordings of performances of works. This exception would not cover a situation where the work created will be published or shared with other people. 

Preservation or replacement copies

Archives and museums can use this exception for the purpose of conserving an artistic work from their permanent collection, as long as it is not available for public loan. It is often necessary to make copies of works, especially when dealing with digital works created in formats, or stored on media, that are in danger of becoming obsolete. If the artistic work is one of multiple copies and it is possible to obtain another copy, the exception would not apply.  

Educational uses for instruction and examination

For works that are not covered by the licensing agreements with Copyright Licensing Agency and the Educational Recording Agency that most educational establishment have, it is possible to use the educational exception. This exception applies to teachers providing instruction or ilustrating a point to pupils/students within a school or university. The exception cannot be used for commercial purposes.  

Text or data mining

Text and Data Mining (TDM) is a new concept which implies an automatic process of analysing or scanning large amounts of text or data using custom made scripts looking for patterns, discovering relationships or trends that are not normally visible through normal reading. 

TDM has the potential to increase the science exponentially. This exception allows researchers to make copies of  works to analyse them using computer programmes where the research is not for commercial benefit. The researchers must have the legal right to access the artistic work, for example via a subscription. Sufficient acknowledgement of the artist is also a condition of the exception. 

Video: Building blocks of UK Copyright: Exceptions
This video explains why we have copyright exceptions in the UK, the concept of Fair Dealing, and looks at a few exceptions including quotation, criticism and review, illustration for education, and parody and pastiche.

Further Resources

Exceptions to copyright



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