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The concept of fair usage exists within UK copyright law; commonly referred to as fair dealing, or free use and fair practice. It’s a framework designed to allow the lawful use or reproduction of work without having to seek permission from the copyright owner(s) or creator(s) or infringing their interest.
Fair use law is not only applicable to text-based works; it applies to musical, dramatic, artistic, literary and typographical works too. However, it does not cover the copyright of printed music.
As an exception to British copyright law, fair dealing is governed by Sections 29 and 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which outlines three instance where fair dealing is a legitimate defence:
A statutory definition for fair dealing does not exist; it will always be a matter of fact, degree and interpretation in every fair use case. Nor is there a percentage or quantitative measure to determine fair dealing. The Intellectual Property Office lists the key factors used to determine the validity of whether a particular dealing with a work is fair as follows:
The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 also outlines the potential fair dealing defences that permit the use of copyright works without permission from the author(s) or creator(s) under UK copyright law:
Generally speaking, anyone wishing to copy an owner’s artistic works for research or private study must do so themselves. However, other people can make a single copy on their behalf.
In 1965, the Society of Authors issued fair use copyright guidance stating the acceptable boundaries for study and exploration:
Copying the works of a literary, musical, dramatic or artistic work – and even a broadcast, film or sound recording – is allowed for the purpose of a school or industry examination or instruction providing it meets the guidelines set within the Intellectual Property Offices’ Exceptions to Copyright for Education and Teaching:
There’s no doubt that UK copyright laws are often misunderstood. At the British Library’s Business and IP Centre we run a workshop on Copyright for Business to help you better understand what copyright protects and how it can be used.
The Society of Authors advises that limited citations of a work are allowed if used solely for the purpose of critique or review under the following conditions:
Section 30(2), (3) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 lists the permitted conditions of using copyright material for the purposes of reporting current events:
The UK copyright law on fair use of works for the purposes of creating a parody or pastiche is also listed in Section 30A, Schedule 2 (2A) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Guidance from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) states that fair use needs to be “fair and proportionate” and does not protect an individual from any other rights an author may have.
The Intellectual Property Office states an exception to copyright exists to enable researchers to make copies of any copyright material for the purpose of “computational analysis” if they already have lawful access to read the work.
The IPO also confirms that fair use for text and data mining should meet the following guidelines:
The information above relates solely to fair use copyright policy in the UK.
Still confused by copyright? Our 'How does copyright affect my business?' workshop will tell you all you need to know to give you the full picture of copyright law in the UK and how it can impact on setting up and running a business.