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Fair Dealing Week 2023, part 1: how ‘fair and honest’ are you?

By Christina Daouti, on 19 February 2023

Fair Dealing Week (20-24 February 2023) is an annual opportunity to discuss and promote how copyright exceptions can be applied, in a thoughtful and fair-minded way, to use materials without permission from the copyright holder. This is the second Fair Dealing Week marked in the UK, having originated as ‘Fair Use’ week in the US and expanded to countries with similar doctrines last year. You may be interested in some events happening this week.

But what are these copyright exceptions, and what is ‘fair dealing’?

In the UK, you may be able to use materials without permission, for specific purposes. These ‘permitted uses’ are defined in UK copyright law and include research, private study and education.  We will be discussing these in more detail in part 2.

The general principle is that you may be able to use others’ materials in an academic or research context; for example, in an essay, dissertation, lecture, or examination, without permission, as long as the use is ‘fair dealing’. Importantly,  ‘fair dealing ‘ itself  does not have a statutory definition, and this is where you would need to apply your own judgement. As stated in the UK government’s guidance:

“The question to ask is:

how would a fair-minded and honest person deal with the work?”

If this sounds too vague, there are, in fact, certain criteria that have been identified by the courts. You would need to think, not just about what you think is fair and reasonable, but also what would be likely to be accepted as ‘fair dealing’ in court. In general, there are three important points to think about:

  • Use only the amount that is fair and reasonable in the circumstances. One typical example is reproducing too long a quote, when you may need a smaller extract of a work to discuss a point or illustrate an example in class.
  • Would your use have an impact on the commercial – and other – interests of the copyright holder? For example, copying and sharing a whole textbook would certainly affect the market.
  • Fully acknowledge the source. This is essential but, of course, not adequate on its own to justify copying a work.

In the next post, we will discuss how fair dealing can be applied in specific copyright exceptions. In the meantime, it might also be helpful to think of fair-mindedness and honesty in a broader sense. Start the week by taking our quick poll. This is for fun only; we don’t ask for personal information and we will not be using your responses.




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