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Substantial vs non-substantial

Permission is not required if you are not using a 'substantial' part of the copyright material. This covers many uses of quotes or extracts. However, 'substantial' is not defined objectively as a percentage of the work, and the user needs to assess whether the portion used - however small - is important, essential or distinctive to the original work.

See the Australian Copyright Council's Quotes and Extracts fact sheet.

Fair dealing provisions

The fair dealing provisions in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cwlth) allow some copying of material without the need for permission from the copyright owner. These uses must be genuine and fair to the copyright owner. They are for research and study (which can be for private study as well as for registered students), criticism or review, reporting the news, giving legal advice, and for parody and satire.

Search the Australian Copyright Council's resources which include the fact sheets 'Fair dealing' and 'Research or study'.

A reasonable portion

The fair dealing provision of the Act allows you to copy a reasonable portion of an item for research and study. This is defined in different ways.

  • For printed textual works of over 10 pages, 10%, or one chapter if it is divided into chapters, is considered reasonable.
  • For text material published in electronic form, 10% of the number of words, or one chapter if the work is divided into chapters, is considered reasonable.
  • For all other cases, the fairness is assessed by taking into consideration:
    - the purpose and character of the dealing
    - the nature of the work
    - the possibility of obtaining the work within a reasonable time at an ordinary
    commercial price
    - the effect of the dealing on the potential for, or value of the work or adaptation
    - in the case where part of the work or adaptation is copied, the amount and
    substance of the part copied taken in relation to the whole work or adaptation.

If a work is not available in a separately published form, all of it can usually be copied under the fair dealing provisions because it is not available at an 'ordinary commercial price'. The exception is when it is available under a licensing scheme administered by the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL).