Copyright matters


Fair Dealing  

The Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act  allow you to copy a 'reasonable portion' of a book, journal, etc for several specific purposes without infringing the rights of the copyright owner or having to make any royalty payment.  The provisions cover online content as well as print materials.

Two of the Fair Dealing purposes are particularly relevant to anyone studying or undertaking research at a University: the purpose of research and study (s.40); and the purpose of review or critique (s.41)

Fair Dealing for the purpose of research and study

This ‘purpose’ covers copying a 'reasonable portion' of a work that is required during the research process; it does not cover the incorporation of that work into your own output.  (You do not have to be undertaking a formal course of study to make use of this provision.)

A ‘reasonable portion’of a work is considered to be, for instance:

  • from a monograph: 1 chapter or 10% of the pages
  • from an anthology: any individual work of fewer than 15 pages
  • from a journal or other periodical: usually 1 article from any one issue - more may be copied if they are all required for the same research
  • from a work in electronic format (not including databases): 1 chapter or10% of the words
  • many websites allow the individual to download content when it is for personal, non-commercial purposes such as your own research/study: check for a 'print friendly' option, which is an implicit licence to copy, or in the site's terms of use/copyright info
  • many e-book licences allow the download of 20% of the content for personal, non-commercial purposes such as your own research/study

You may copy more than a ‘reasonable portion’ for research and study if:

  • the work is out of print (for at least 30 days) and a new copy is unobtainable at an ordinary commercial price
  • you have permission from the copyright owner
  • the work is in the Public Domain (e.g. the author has been dead for more than 70 years)
  • the work is published under a Creative Commons/OpenAccess licence – you can copy and use the material as defined under the terms of the particular licence
  • the work is an unpublished thesis: you may copy the whole work

Fair Dealing for the purpose of criticism or review

This purpose may cover your use of third party copyright material in a conference paper, journal article, book chapter, etc.  It does not apply to the use of unpublished materials.

  •  no 'reasonable portion' limit
  • if necessary up to a whole work can be copied/reproduced
  • your use must involve an engagement with the material e.g. making a judgment of it or the ideas it expresses, or comparing it with other works in order to make a judgement
  • you cannot rely on this provision to use a work simply to explain or illustrate your own argument
  • the material must be acknowledged

An 'insubstantial' amount

Brief quotations from a work may be reproduced in your own work under the Copyright Act's provision for the use of  'an insubstantial amount' of work; this use is not subject to the fair dealing requirements mentioned above, but is restricted to no more than 1% of a work.  Any quotations used under this provision must be referenced.



You may be able to incorporate 3rd party Creative Commons licensed materials in your own publication, even in a commercial work; it will depend on which licence is used on the specific material, but usually you will not need to seek further permission to use such licensed content.