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Using copyright material

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Copyright is infringed if copyright material is used in any of the ways within the exclusive control of the copyright owner without their permission, unless an exception applies. Any use of copyright material must be acknowledged in accordance with moral rights obligations.

Further information on some of the exceptions and when to obtain permission from the copyright owner is set out below.

Insubstantial parts
  • Copyright will generally not be infringed if an insubstantial part of the copyright material is used. A part will be considered “substantial” if it is an essential, vital or material part of the copyright material. It will depend on the circumstances of each case whether a part is so important that permission is required to use it. Consideration needs to be given to the importance the part bears to the copyright material as a whole.


    The quality of the part is more important than the quantity used from the copyright material. The part may be substantial even if it is a small proportion of all of the copyright material.

Fair dealing
  • There are a number of fair dealing exceptions in the Copyright Act. This section lists the fair dealing exceptions most relevant to University staff and students.

    A fair dealing with copyright material for the following purposes will not infringe copyright:


    In each of these cases the dealing with the copyright material must be fair. This will depend on the circumstances of each case. The fair dealing exception should only be relied on if the person using the copyright material has the requisite fair dealing purpose.

Flexible dealing
  • The flexible dealing exception was introduced into the Copyright Act to allow copyright material to be used by libraries, archives, educational institutions and people with a disability in certain circumstances and for specified purposes, provided the use is not covered by another Copyright Act exception.


    This is a very complex exception to apply in practice and University staff and students should not rely on the exception without first discussing the matter with Copyright Services.

Statutory licences for educational purposes
  • The Copyright Act contains two statutory licences under which the University can copy and communicate certain copyright material for educational purposes subject to a number of conditions. The statutory licences are set out in Part VA and Part VB of the Copyright Act.


    Under the Part VA statutory licence, radio and television broadcasts can be copied by University staff, and the copies can be communicated, provided this is done for educational purposes.


    Under the Part VB statutory licence, text, images and notated music can be copied and communicated by University staff for educational purposes.


    Further information about the statutory licences is set out in For educators.

Exceptions for in class performances of copyright material
  • There are a number of exceptions for in class activities, including:

    • performing literary, dramatic and musical works
    • screening films (eg from DVDs and videos; streaming from websites that permit the in class screening of films)
    • playing sound recordings (eg from CDs; streaming from websites that permit the sound recording to be played in class)

    To rely on the exceptions, the activity must be in the course of educational instruction that is not given for profit; the performance, screening or playing must be given or done by the teacher or a student; and the audience must be limited to persons taking part in the instruction or otherwise directly connected with the place where the instruction is given.

    Further information about these exceptions is set out in For educators.

Other exceptions for educational instruction
  • Other exceptions in the Copyright Act for using works for educational instruction and sound broadcasts for educational purposes include:

    • copying works by hand, and in the case of literary, dramatic and musical works, making an adaptation or copying that adaptation by hand, in the course of educational instruction (eg copying on a blackboard, overhead transparencies)
    • copying works, and in the case of literary, dramatic and musical works, making an adaptation or copying that adaptation, in connection with exams
    • making a record of a sound broadcast provided the broadcast was intended to be used for educational purposes, the place of education making the record is not conducted for profit and the record is used in the course of instruction at that place

    Further information about these exceptions is set out in For educators.

Public domain
  • Once copyright has expired, the copyright material is in the public domain and is no longer protected by copyright. As a consequence, copyright permission is not needed for the material that is out of copyright.
Copyright owner’s permission
  • If an exception does not apply, permission must be obtained from the copyright owner to use copyright material in any of the ways within the exclusive control of the copyright owner. The University has entered into licence agreements with a variety of rights holders to allow University staff and students to use copyright material controlled by them subject to certain conditions. Examples include:


    If the University has not obtained a licence that applies to a proposed use by University staff and students, permission will need to be obtained from the copyright owner.

    In some instances, however, the copyright material you want to use may be available under a Creative Commons licence that permits your use. In which case, you should check the terms and conditions applying to the particular licence and make sure you comply with them.


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