It can often be tricky to determine whether something you want to do falls within fair dealing. This quick guide sets out the steps you should take and the factors you should consider.

Ultimately, it will depend on your particular circumstances and you have to make a judgment call as to whether your use can be classified as “fair”. If you have any doubt, you should ask for permission. If the work is a library-licenced electronic resource, the permissibility of your use is determined by the terms of the licence.
Step 1: Check whether your purpose is a permitted purpose.

Library shelfAre you using the work for the purpose of:

  • Research
  • Private study
  • Criticism
  • Review
  • News reporting
  • Education
  • Satire
  • Parody

Yes — Continue to step 2

No — Check whether use is covered under:

  • Any other Copyright Act exception
  • Library licences for electronic journals and databases (Note: some licences may prohibit some uses even if the purpose is one of the above.)
  • Cinematograph film licences
  • Any other agreement

Step 2: Check whether your use is “fair”

Student in classIs the nature of the dealing fair?

Commercial — less fair
Charitable/Educational — more fair
Character of the dealing     
Multiple copies, widely distributed/repetitive — less fair
Single copy; limited distribution/one-off — more fair

Importance/amount of work copied     
Entire Work/Significant excerpt — less fair
Limited/trivial amount — more fair

Effect of dealing on the original work     
Competing with original work — less fair
No detriment to original — more fair

Nature of the work     
Confidential — less fair
Unpublished/in public interest — more fair

Available alternatives     
Non-copyright works available; not necessary for purpose — less fair
No alternative works; necessary to achieve purpose — more fair


Fair dealing flowchart courtesy of the University of Waterloo Copyright Advisory Committee, licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.