Are you trying to understand ‘Fair Dealing Copyright’?

In today’s digitised world, where information flows freely and rapidly, understanding copyright nuances is more crucial than ever.

Among the many facets of copyright law, the concept of “fair dealing” stands out as both essential and often misunderstood.

It represents a balance between the rights of creators and the public’s interest in accessing and using copyrighted materials for certain lawful purposes.

But what exactly does ‘fair dealing copyright’ mean, and how does it fit into the broader scope of copyright law?

This blog post aims to shed light on this very topic, unraveling its complexities and highlighting its significance in our modern digital age.

Doctrine of Fair Use in Copyright Law in India – Fair Dealing Copyright

Copyright law, at its core, seeks to protect the rights of creators, ensuring that their original works are not exploited without their permission.

But there’s a fine balance to be maintained between safeguarding these rights and ensuring that the public can access, reproduce, or use these creations for specific purposes without stifling creativity or academic pursuits.

This balance in India, as in many jurisdictions, is achieved through the ‘Doctrine of Fair Use.’

1. What is Fair Use? The doctrine of ‘Fair Use’ in the Indian copyright regime refers to certain activities that can be performed relating to copyrighted works without obtaining prior permission from the rights holder.

It’s a provision to ensure that creativity, innovation, and information dissemination do not come to a halt due to stringent copyright restrictions.

2. The Indian Perspective: In India, the concept of fair dealing copyright is embodied under Sections 52 of the Copyright Act, 1957. This section provides a detailed list of acts that do not amount to infringement. Some of these acts include:

  • Research or private study.
  • Criticism or review.
  • Reporting of current events and current affairs, including the broadcasting of such events.

3. Factors to Determine Fair Use: While Section 52 provides an exhaustive list, determining what constitutes fair dealing copyright can often be ambiguous. Generally, courts consider various factors, including:

  • The purpose and character of the use, especially whether it’s of a commercial nature or for non-profit educational purposes.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used concerning the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • The effect of the use on the potential market or value of the copyrighted work.

4. Differences from other Jurisdictions: While the doctrine of fair dealing copyright exists in many jurisdictions, its interpretation and application can vary.

For instance, the U.S. takes a more flexible approach with its four-factor test, without an exhaustive list as seen in the Indian context.

It’s crucial for entities operating in multiple jurisdictions to understand these nuances.

5. The Need for Fair Use: In an age of rapid information exchange and digital transformation, the Doctrine of Fair dealing copyright becomes even more critical.

It ensures that educators, researchers, and the general public can make ‘fair’ use of copyrighted materials without constantly fearing legal repercussions, promoting creativity, and progress in the society.

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Fair Use Copyright India – Examples

1. Research and Study: A student photocopies a few pages of a copyrighted book for her research. Since it is for personal academic purposes and she’s not selling the copies or distributing them on a large scale, this falls under fair dealing copyright.

2. Criticism and Review: A film critic includes short clips from a movie in his video review. This usage, aimed at providing critique and analysis, is considered fair dealing copyright under the Copyright Act, provided the amount of content used is reasonable.

3. Reporting Current Events: A news channel broadcasts a short snippet of a copyrighted song during a segment about the song’s singer. Since it’s used for reporting and provides information about current events, this is a fair dealing copyright of the copyrighted material.

4. Parody and Caricature: A comedian creates a humorous rendition of a popular song, altering its lyrics for comedic effect. This can be considered as fair dealing copyright because it is a parody and doesn’t replace the market for the original song.

5. Disabled Access: For visually impaired individuals, copyrighted books are converted into Braille. This transformation, aiming to make content accessible to the disabled, falls under fair use in India.

6. Judicial Proceedings: If a copyrighted work is reproduced for the purpose of a judicial proceeding, it’s considered a fair dealing copyright. For instance, presenting a copyrighted article as evidence in court.

7. Library Archives: A library makes a single copy of a book that is no longer in print to preserve it and for its archive. Given the non-commercial purpose and the goal of preservation, this falls under fair dealing copyright.

8. Non-commercial Public Viewing: A teacher screens a copyrighted documentary in class as part of a lesson. Since it’s for educational purposes and not for profit, it’s typically seen as a fair dealing copyright.

It’s important to note that while these examples provide a general idea, each case of alleged copyright infringement is unique.

The nuances of the specific situation, the intent, the amount of content used, and its impact on the original work’s market value can influence whether something is deemed fair use or not.

Always consult with legal experts when in doubt.

Fair Use Under Copyright Act

The concept of “Fair Use” is a critical component of copyright law across many jurisdictions.

It aims to strike a balance between the rights of creators and the interests of the public. Let’s delve into the broader concept and its significance.

Fair Use Under Copyright Act

Introduction to Fair Use: Fair dealing copyright is a legal doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without obtaining permission from the rights holders.

It is intended to allow for exceptions to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work, ensuring a balance between protecting the interests of creators and those of the public or end-users.

2. Primary Objectives: The doctrine exists to serve several core objectives:

  • To promote scholarship, research, and education.
  • To allow commentary, criticism, and news reporting.
  • To facilitate transformative uses that benefit society without overly hampering the rights of original creators.
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3. Factors to Determine Fair Use: While the exact criteria can vary by jurisdiction, there are common factors considered in determining whether a use is “fair”:

  • Purpose and Character of Use: This considers whether the use is of a commercial nature or for nonprofit educational purposes. Transformative uses, which add new expression or meaning, are generally viewed more favorably.
  • Nature of the Copyrighted Work: Using factual works (like a news report) is usually seen more favorably than using highly creative works (like a novel or song).
  • Amount and Substantiality: This evaluates the quantity of the copyrighted material used in relation to the whole work. Both qualitative and quantitative aspects are considered.
  • Effect on the Market: If the use adversely affects the market value or potential market for the original work, it’s less likely to be considered fair dealing copyright.

4. Common Examples of Fair Use:

  • Quoting excerpts in a review or critique.
  • Using copyrighted materials in academic and research work.
  • Parodying a song or movie.
  • Using a small clip or screenshot for commentary or educational purposes.

5. International Perspective: It’s worth noting that while the concept of “fair use” is most prominently found in U.S. copyright law, many countries have similar provisions known by different names, like “fair dealing” in the UK, Canada, and Australia.

Each jurisdiction defines and interprets these doctrines in its unique way, based on its cultural, social, and economic contexts.

Will Fair Use Come Under Copyright Infringement?

The short answer is no; when a use of copyrighted material is genuinely considered “fair use,” it does not constitute copyright infringement.

However, understanding the intricacies of this relationship is essential. Let’s explore this further.

1. Fair Use as a Defense: Fair use is often raised as a defense in cases of alleged copyright infringement. If a party can successfully demonstrate that their use of copyrighted material falls under the parameters of fair use, they are essentially saying, “Even if I did use the copyrighted material, it was in a manner that the law allows.”

2. Determining Fair Use: The determination of whether a particular use of copyrighted content qualifies as fair use often involves a nuanced analysis.

It depends on various factors, including the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount used relative to the whole, and the effect on the potential market for the original work.

3. Not Automatic: It’s crucial to understand that fair use is not an automatic right. Just because one believes their use of copyrighted material to be “fair” doesn’t necessarily mean the law will agree.

It often takes legal analysis and, in some cases, a court’s interpretation to determine if something genuinely falls under fair use.

4. Subjectivity and Ambiguity: Given the somewhat subjective nature of the criteria determining fair use, there can be ambiguities.

Two parties may have differing opinions on whether a specific use of copyrighted material is “fair.” It’s not uncommon for such disputes to end up in court.

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5. International Variations: While the U.S. has its “fair use” doctrine, many other countries have something similar, often termed “fair dealing,” like in the UK, Canada, and Australia.

The criteria and interpretations can vary from one jurisdiction to another. It’s essential to be aware of these differences if dealing with copyrighted content internationally.


The concept of “fair dealing” in copyright law encapsulates the delicate equilibrium that legal systems strive to maintain between the rights of creators and the broader societal interest.

While it is paramount to reward and protect the creative endeavors of individuals and entities, it’s equally essential to ensure that the flow of knowledge, creativity, and information isn’t stifled.

Fair dealing serves as this bridge, permitting specific uses of copyrighted material for purposes like research, education, and critique.

As the digital age propels us into an era of unprecedented content creation and dissemination, understanding and adapting the principles of fair dealing will be crucial in nurturing innovation while respecting the sanctity of originality.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is ‘fair dealing’ in copyright law?

Fair dealing is a legal doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holder.

It exists to balance the interests of copyright holders with the public’s right to access, use, and build upon certain copyrighted works for specific purposes.

2. How is ‘fair dealing’ different from ‘fair use’?

While both “fair dealing” and “fair use” allow for exceptions to copyright restrictions, the terms and their applications can differ based on jurisdictions.

“Fair dealing” is commonly used in UK, Canada, and Australia and often has specific listed purposes. “Fair use,” a term more prominent in U.S. copyright law, is broader and determined by a set of factors rather than specific listed purposes.

3. What are common purposes allowed under ‘fair dealing’?

Common purposes under fair dealing often include research and private study, criticism or review, news reporting, and parody or caricature. However, the exact allowances can vary by country.

4. Can I use copyrighted material for educational purposes under ‘fair dealing’?

Yes, educational purposes can often fall under fair dealing provisions, especially when the use is non-commercial and limited in scope.

However, the specifics can vary by jurisdiction, and not all educational uses will automatically be considered “fair.”

5. How can I determine if my use of copyrighted material is ‘fair dealing’?

The safest approach is to consult with legal counsel familiar with copyright law in your jurisdiction.

You’ll typically need to consider the purpose, nature, amount used, and potential market effects of your use to determine its fairness.