Defense of Fair Dealing in Copyright Law

by Shelly Morgan
The defense of fair dealing applies in many parts of the English-speaking world.

The defense of fair dealing applies in many parts of the English-speaking world.

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While there is no such thing as an international copyright, many nations share an interest in maintaining some degree of uniformity of copyright laws. Signatories to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic works tend to follow similar copyright protections and defenses. This convention includes 167 countries, including the United States, Japan, China, the United Kingdom and France. Copyright protections and defenses often go by different names in different countries. Fair dealing is analogous to the U.S. defense of fair use.

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Most countries have copyright laws that protect original literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works. These laws give the author the exclusive right to copy, distribute and perform the work. Other people may engage in these activities only with permission from the author or where applicable, from his publisher or estate.

Fair Use versus Fair Dealing

In the United States, the fair use doctrine limits the copyright owner's exclusive rights to the copyrighted work. This doctrine allows you to reproduce portions of a copyrighted work for use in criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research. Such use is not an infringement of copyright. The doctrine of fair dealing provides similar limitations in Canada, Australia and countries that are part of the United Kingdom. Other signatories to the Berne Convention provide analogous provisions. The Czech Republic allows reproduction of a work for personal use or for educational purposes.

Canadian Fair Dealing

The Canadian fair dealing concept is not as broad reaching as the U.S. fair use concept. Under the Canadian Copyright Act, fair dealing is a defense if the work is used for research, private study, education, parody or satire. However, whereas a U.S. teacher can copy and distribute part of a copyrighted work to his students, the Canadian law is more restrictive. It allows the teacher only to reproduce part of the work on a blackboard, flip chart or as overhead projection. She cannot photocopy parts of a work and distribute the copies to students.

United Kingdom Fair Dealing

Copyright laws in the United Kingdom have extensive fair dealing provisions. Copying and distributing copyrighted material for the purposes of criticism, review, news reporting, research and personal study is permitted, as is making a single copy for personal use. But the law specifically states that fair dealing does not protect converting a computer program from a simple computer programming language to a more complex one.