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Assisting Persons with a Disability

Providing access to copyright material

The Copyright Act includes two free exceptions that allow people and educational organisations to use copyright material to assist people with disabilities.

Exceptions
  • Fair dealing for the purpose of access by a person with a disability
    • A person with a disability, or a person acting on their behalf, can deal with (eg copy or communicate) copyright material, make changes to the format and add features if it is for the purpose of providing access (eg an accessible version) to a person with a disability, and the dealing is fair.

      When is the dealing fair?

      The dealing must be “fair” to avoid infringing copyright in the material. The provision requires the person dealing with the copyright material to take into account the following factors when determining if the dealing is “fair”:

      • the purpose and character of the dealing
      • the nature of the copyright material
      • the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of, the material
      • the amount and substantiality of the part dealt with, taken in relation to the whole material (if only part of the material is dealt with)

      Important: the dealing may still be fair even if an entire work is used under this provision.

    Use of copyright material by organisations assisting persons with a disability
    • This exception allows organisations to use copyright material (eg to make accessible format copies and add features to them) for the sole purpose of assisting a person with a disability to access the material in a required format if the material is not commercially available in that format. This replaces the provisions in the old educational statutory licence (previously Part VB of the Copyright Act, repealed in 2017). This exception could be used to provide support to students about to commence a unit of study, academics or Higher Degree by Research students.

      What organisations are covered?

      The exception covers educational institutions, such as the University, and not-for-profit organisations with a principal function of providing assistance to persons with a disability (whether or not the organisation has other principal functions).

      When is material commercially available?

      Organisations are required to purchase an accessible copy if it is commercially available in a format suitable for assisting the person with their disability. The copyright material will not be commercially available if a suitable format copy cannot be obtained within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price.

What format changes can I make?
  • The provisions are designed to be flexible to ensure copyright material can be converted into the best format available and with appropriate features.

    A person can make any changes to the format and add features which help a person with a disability enjoy the material. For example, scanning a book for use with assistive technology, making adjustments to the size and colour of graphs, tables or text, converting books into easy English, and providing audio descriptions.

Who is a person with a disability?
  • A person with a disability is anyone who suffers from a disability that causes them difficulty in reading, viewing, hearing or comprehending copyright material in a particular form. In practice, this includes anyone with a disability as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).


This information is provided as general information only. It provides a basic introduction to copyright and is not intended to be comprehensive.

Reviewed December 2017