Copyright – Should Fair Dealing be replaced by Fair Use?

The following is an independent research essay analysing whether or not the UK should adopt a general, fair use defence to copyright infringement similar to the one found in US law. It was produced as part of my degree course, although the submitted version varies significantly due to limits on the length. This is the “original” version and contains a detailed look at copyright, its scope, history and purpose, before examining the fair dealing and fair use defences. Sections of the essay will be appearing in stand-alone posts, in (hopefully) a more accessible form.

Copyright – Fair Dealing and Fair Use.pdf (161 kB)

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What Makes Something Fair? – A close look at fair dealing

When copyright law was first introduced by the Copyright Act 1710, there were no defences available – is a registered book was copying, it was an infringement. Over the next two hundred years, judicial activism in this area led to a general defence known as “fair use.” The importance of this defence was recognised by Parliament and was included in the 1911 Copyright Act under the new name “fair dealing”.

Today, the fair dealing defences cover three main areas of permitted acts; private study and research, criticism and review, and news reporting. This is an exhaustive list and no other types of use can be covered. These defences are now found in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act and added to these is an exception for education. While the requirements for each individual area are laid out in the Act, the definition of fairness is not given and so has been developed by the Courts. Read the rest of this entry »