In the vast realm of intellectual property, where artistic expressions and innovative ideas thrive, copyright protection stands as a pillar of safeguarding the rights of creators.

It bestows upon them exclusive ownership and control over their creations, ensuring their works are respected, valued, and rewarded.

Yet, within this intricate landscape, there exist fascinating exceptions that challenge the conventional notions of infringement.

This article revolves around the exceptions to copyright infringement.

In this digital age, where information flows freely and creativity takes diverse forms, understanding these exceptions is crucial for striking a delicate balance between the rights of creators and the broader societal interest in accessing and building upon creative works.

This article aims to thoroughly explore the copyright infringement exceptions, whether you’re an artist looking to understand your rights, a content creator navigating the nuances of fair use, or just someone curious about the interaction between creativity and legal frameworks.

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What is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal framework that grants exclusive rights to creators and owners of original creative works.

It is a legal means of protecting various forms of creative works, including literature, art, and music.

It grants authors the authority to regulate and choose how others use, distribute, reproduce, exhibit, or perform their works.

It applies to a broad spectrum of artistic mediums. Writing, music, film, visual arts, photography, software, and more are all covered under this.

What is Copyright Infringement?

The term “copyright infringement” describes the illegal use of copyrighted content, including its reproduction, distribution, display, and performance, without the owner’s consent or a valid license.

It happens when someone infringes on the owner’s exclusive rights as provided under the copyright statute.

Copyright violation can take various forms, such as:

  • Reproducing or copying the copyrighted work without authorisation, whether in whole or in part.
  • Distributing or making unauthorised copies of the copyrighted work, such as selling counterfeit DVDs or sharing copyrighted files online.
  • Displaying or performing copyrighted work publicly without permission, such as showing a film or playing copyrighted music in a public setting without the necessary licenses.
  • Creating derivative works based on the original copyrighted work without obtaining the appropriate permissions, such as making a movie adaptation of a book without acquiring the rights.
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What is the Exception to Copyright Infringement?

Section 52 of the Copyright Act of 1957 outlines various exceptions for copyright infringement in India.

These exceptions enable limited use of copyrighted material without the explicit authorisation of the copyright owner.

Section 52 of the Act outlines the acts that do not constitute copyright infringement:

(1) Fair dealing with works: Fair dealing with a work, excluding computer programs, is not considered copyright infringement. Fair dealing is allowed for purposes such as

  • private or personal use, including research;
  • criticism or review of the work or any other work; and
  • reporting current events / current affairs, including public lectures.

Explanation: The storage of any work, including the incidental storage of non-infringing computer programs, in electronic media for the purposes specified in this provision shall not be considered copyright infringement.

Furthermore, the following instances are exempted from copyright infringement:

  • Reproduction of cinematographic films or broadcasts, or through any means of photography.
  • Reproduction of court cases or reports of judicial proceedings.
  • The publication or reproduction of any work created by the Secretariat of a Legislature, or in the case of a legislature comprising two Houses, by the Secretariat of either House, solely for the purpose of use by the members of that Legislature.
  • The act of reproducing any work in a certified copy, created or provided in compliance with the prevailing law
  • Publication in a collection predominantly comprised of non-copyrighted material, specifically intended for educational institutions.
  • Recitation or public reading of reasonable extracts from published literary or dramatic works.
  • Sound production, whether registered or unregistered for copyright, or with the owner’s consent.

What Decisions Were Made Regarding Exceptions to the Reproduction Rights at the Berne Convention?

The Berne Convention introduced the three-step test as Article 9(2) in 1967, specifically addressing exceptions to the newly established right of reproduction.

Article 9 of the Convention states:

  • Authors of literary and artistic works protected by the Convention have the exclusive right to authorise the reproduction of their works in any manner or form.
  • Legislation in the member countries of the Union may permit the reproduction of such works in certain special cases, provided that such reproduction does not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably harm the legitimate interests of the author.
  • As per the Convention, all visual or sound recordings are classified as reproductions.
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What is the “Fair Dealing Doctrine”?

The Fair Dealing Doctrine is a statutory exception to infringement similar to the concept of “fair use” in the United States.

The doctrine permits limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the copyright holders.

The common types of use for which fair dealing is accepted vary between nations but generally include:

  • Research and study: Using copyrighted content for the purpose of private study, research, or education often falls under fair dealing, provided the use is genuinely for these purposes and the extent of the material copied is reasonable and necessary.
  • Criticism or review: You are usually allowed to use a portion of copyrighted work for the purpose of criticism or review, as long as it is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgment.
  • News reporting: In some jurisdictions, fair dealing allows copyrighted work to be used for the purpose of reporting current events.
  • Parody or satire: Some countries allow copyrighted works to be used for the creation of parody or satire.

Note that the fair dealing exceptions are generally construed narrowly, and the burden of proof is on the defendant in a copyright infringement case to prove a fair dealing defense.

The determination of whether a particular use qualifies as fair dealing depends on factors such as

  • the purpose and character of the use,
  • the nature of the copyrighted work,
  • the amount used, and
  • the effect on the potential market for the original work.

The specific rules vary by country, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a legal expert to understand what is permitted under the fair dealing doctrine in your specific jurisdiction.

Related Articles: Check out the following linked articles to know more about them:

The Inclusion of Fair Dealing in the Benchmark Judgement

Kartar Singh Giani v. Ladha Singh

This is a significant benchmark judgment that addressed the concept of fair dealing.

In this case, the High Court made important observations regarding the meaning of the term “fair” in fair dealing.

Two key points were highlighted by the court:

  • It was argued that unfairness in fair dealing requires an intention to compete and derive profit from such competition.
  • The court emphasised that the motive of the infringer must be improper or unfair in order for the dealing to be considered unfair.

This landmark judgment shed light on the interpretation and application of fair dealing within the context of copyright law.

It provided valuable insights into the factors to be considered when determining the fairness of dealing with copyrighted material.

Civic Chandran v. Ammini Amma

Civic Chandran v. Ammini Amma is a significant ruling in Indian copyright law, delivered by the Kerala High Court.

In this landmark case, the court established that substantial copying of copyrighted material can be permissible under the fair use doctrine exemption, provided that the copying is in the public interest.


In conclusion, exceptions to copyright law in India play a crucial role in balancing the rights of creators and the broader societal interests in accessing and utilising creative works.

These exceptions enable important activities such as education, research, criticism, commentary, and transformative uses, fostering innovation, cultural exchange, and the advancement of knowledge.

By recognising the need for limitations on exclusive rights, exceptions to infringement promote a dynamic and inclusive creative ecosystem.

They facilitate intellectual inquiry, the creation of fresh works, and the exchange of knowledge and cultural expression.

Understanding these exceptions and their application within the context of copyright law is crucial for people, educators, governments, and businesses.

We can achieve a peaceful balance that fosters creativity, promotes the sharing of ideas, and assures access to priceless cultural resources for the benefit of society as a whole by accepting and respecting these exceptions.

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What are the exceptions to copyright protection?

Exceptions to copyright are specific circumstances or uses of copyrighted material that are allowed without permission from the copyright holder.

These exceptions vary from country to country but can include fair use/fair dealing, educational use, library and archive use, personal use, and more.

They provide flexibility in copyright laws to balance the rights of copyright holders with the public’s interest in accessing and using creative works.

What is fair dealing?

Fair dealing is a specific exception to copyright infringement recognised in some jurisdictions, such as India.

This legal doctrine allows for the use of copyrighted material without permission in limited circumstances, such as research, private study, criticism, review, and news reporting.

The specific exceptions may vary depending on the country and its copyright laws.

Why do we have these exceptions to copyright infringement?

These exceptions to infringement of copyright are designed to strike a balance between protecting the rights of copyright holders and promoting the public interest.

They recognise that there are certain situations where it is beneficial for society to use copyrighted material without seeking permission, such as for educational purposes, criticism, or research.

These exceptions foster creativity, innovation, education, and the exchange of ideas while respecting the rights of copyright holders.

Are limitations and exceptions the same?

In the context of copyright, limitations, and exceptions are often used interchangeably.

Both terms refer to specific circumstances or uses of copyrighted material that are permitted without permission from the copyright holder.

Limitations generally refer to situations where the exclusive rights of copyright holders are restricted or limited, while exceptions refer to the instances where the use of copyrighted material is explicitly allowed without seeking permission.

Why are exceptions provided to intellectual property rights?

Exceptions are provided to intellectual property rights, including copyright, to strike a balance between the rights of creators and the interests of society.

Intellectual property laws grant exclusive rights to creators to encourage innovation, creativity, and investment in new works.

However, it is also recognised that certain limited uses of copyrighted material, such as for education, research, or criticism, can benefit society as a whole.

Exceptions ensure that intellectual property rights are not absolute and that reasonable access and use of copyrighted material are permitted to promote the public interest, education, cultural development, and the free exchange of ideas.

How does fair dealing limit copyright owners’ rights while also acknowledging their economic impact?

Fair use doctrine serves as a significant limitation on owners’ exclusive rights by allowing certain uses of copyrighted works without permission.

However, the court also considers the economic impact on content creators.

Fair dealing is a practice that is deemed acceptable when it maintains a balance between allowing certain uses and safeguarding the rights and interests of rights holders, particularly when the economic impact is negligible.