Copyright for your business

Copyright exceptions

Guide

In most cases, reproducing or using a copyright-protected work without the permission of the copyright owner usually amounts to copyright infringement. However, certain uses of copyright works may not require permission. This may be the case if:

  • less than a 'substantial part' of a copyrighted work is being used
  • exceptions to copyright apply

Exceptions to copyright

Certain types of uses may be exempt from copyright law provisions. Use of a part or all of a copyrighted work may be permitted for:

  • non-commercial research and private study
  • text and data-mining for non-commercial research
  • fair dealing for criticism, review and reporting current events
  • education and teaching
  • helping disabled people, eg visually-impaired or deaf people
  • time-shifting - ie recording of a broadcast in domestic premises for private and domestic use to enable it to be viewed or listened to at a more convenient time
  • caricature, parody or pastiche

Find detailed guidance on different copyright exceptions.

Fair dealing

Certain exceptions only apply if the use of the work is considered a 'fair dealing'. There is no statutory definition of fair dealing. Key questions that can help you determine if the use constitutes fair dealing are:

  • Does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it, causing the owner to lose revenue, then it is not likely to be fair.
  • Is the amount of the work taken reasonable and appropriate? Was it necessary to use the amount that was taken? Usually only part of a work may be used.

Sufficient acknowledgement

If you're relying on certain exceptions to copy someone else's work, it may be necessary for you to sufficiently acknowledge their work. For example, where you have copied all or a substantial part of a work for the purposes of criticism or review, or where the use was for the purposes of news reporting. However, such acknowledgement is not required where it is impossible for reasons of practicality.

Exceptions if you own copyright

If someone wants to use your work and you are the copyright owner, in most cases, you will be able to prohibit or license such use.

However, you should check that the use doesn't fall within one of the exceptions to copyright. If it does, the user may be within their rights to use your work without your permission or licence.

If you believe that a copyright exception doesn't apply and that your rights may have been infringed, you may need to consider if enforcement actions are appropriate. For guidance on this, see how to enforce your copyright.

Some areas of copyright law have been affected by EU Exit from 1 January 2021. For current information on these, see: changes to copyright law from 1 January 2021.