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Fair Dealing

'Fair dealing' is a statutory defence (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) to copyright infringement which for programme-makers and broadcasters can be useful, because it allows copyright works (including musical, literary, artistic works, clips from other television programmes and films) to be used within programmes, in certain circumstances, without consent from the copyright owner, without payment being made and even where consent has been refused.


Fair dealing can be helpful in circumstances where programme-makers wish to:

  • review or critique a copyright work, for example review a film, book or another television programme;
  • use a copyright work in order to report a current event, for example someone else’s footage of a particular newsworthy event;
  • quote from a copyright work;
  • use a copyright work or part of it for the purposes of ‘parody, pastiche or caricature’.

Fair dealing is a defence to copyright infringement in the UK and whilst some other countries have similar defences, they are not the same. If international sales are anticipated for a programme, fair dealing is unlikely to be suitable unless the intention is either to make a different international version, or to seek specific legal advice on the law in each country in which the programme is intended to be distributed.


Where there is any intention to fair deal material, programme-makers must seek the consent and advice of the programme lawyer.


For a more detailed, practical explanation of the law of fair dealing, please see 'Fair Dealing Guidelines'.