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Copyright and Fair Dealing

‘Fair Dealing’ is a term that is used to refer to acceptable use of a copyright-protected work. It is not, however, defined by the legislation and does not automatically grant permission to re-use parts of a work. Rather, it is a legal defence should the rightsholder claim an infringement has taken place.

Fair Dealing means the fair and reasonable copying of a work to benefit an individual or society, in a way which does not prejudice the commercial interests of the rightsholder.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 permits copying of a limited amount of a work for number of purposes. Purposes include:

  • Private study
  • Non-commercial research
  • Criticism or review
  • Newspaper reporting
  • Illustration for non-commercial instruction and examinations

Since June 2014, the provision has been extended to cover all types of copyright works – literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, as well as sound recordings, films and broadcasts.

Fair Dealing requires that you only copy as much of the work as is necessary for the purpose, and that any copying does not impact on the rightsholder’s legitimate exploitation of his/her work.

The word ‘research’ is not defined, but CDPA s.29 indicates that it may mean any form of research as long as its purpose is non-commercial.

Fair Dealing for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study will not cover the making of multiple copies.


 Updated August 2017