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Copyright @ Solent

Fair dealing

What is fair dealing?

Fair Dealing is a legal term used to establish whether a use of a copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright.

There is no statutory definition of fair dealing, instead each individual use has to be looked at within the specific circumstances.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) states “The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work.


There are some general factors to consider:

  • Is the amount of the work to be copied reasonable and appropriate to the purpose?  
  • Does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it and competes with the copyright owner's exploitation of the work, for instant by avoiding purchase of a legitimate copy, then it is unlikely to be considered ‘fair’.

Fair dealing applies to literary, dramatic, musical, artistic or typographical works, not just text-based works. It does not cover the copying of printed music.  Students and staff on the BA Musical Theatre course may be able to copy music using the Higher Education Printed Music Licence (this licence does not cover copying of printed music for other courses).


What is not fair dealing?

  • An entire work like books, music, films is unlikely to be considered 'fair dealing'
  • Unrestricted access to any copyright material.
  • Making a high resolution copy available or one that would cause rights holders to lose revenue.
  • Not using for the purposes outlined in the exception; for example, it should relate to instruction or examination, research and private study, criticism or review, or news reporting. 
  • Using copyright information for commercial purposes.