In Australia, teachers are permitted to photocopy 10% or one chapter of a textbook, whichever is largest, for educational purposes without permission from the publisher.

In the Copyright Act 1986[1], it states that an educational institution does not infringe on copyright when it is not software or anything used in a broadcast, it is for the educational institution for education purposes only, a remuneration notice is given, and other conditions I am not going to mention here, otherwise this would get too long.

Also in the Copyright Act 1986[2], it states that a 'reasonable amount' is "10% of the number of words in the work; or if the work is divided into chapters—the number of words copied exceeds, in the aggregate, 10% of the number of words in the work, but the reproduction contains only the whole or part of a single chapter of the work."

But, I couldn't find anything mentioning Copyright Act 1968 students. If a student, specifically a high school student, owned a textbook and the PDF version of it, are they allowed to share the PDF version of the textbook with other students that don't own the same textbook for educational purposes? (e.g. a study group, student asks for a resource). Does this specific use case go under use by an 'educational institution'?


  1. Copyright Act 1986 (Cth) pt IVA div 4 sub-div 113P para 1. https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2021C00407
  2. Copyright Act 1986 (Cth) pt II div 10 para 2A. https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2021C00407

Some background information is that the specific state is Western Australia and the purpose of sharing it is for educational purposes.

  • You're talking about sharing (i.e. copying) a PDF of the entire book, not just 10% or one chapter? Then I don't see how this provision would help you - even if you, the student, were included as an "educational institution" which I very much doubt. Jan 31, 2022 at 16:07

1 Answer 1


You misunderstand Part IV Division 4 of the Copyright Act 1968

It does not allow educational institutions to make limited copies without infringing copyright. Instead, it establishes a mandatory licencing regime where, on payment of fair remuneration, the educational institution can copy all or part of the work without needing the copyright owner's permission.

It's also unrelated to the definition of "reasonable portion" in Part II Division 10 Clause 2A

Those definitions are related to the fair dealing exemption for research or study in Part III Division 3 Clause 40. Specifically Subclause (5):

Despite subsection (2), a reproduction, for the purpose of research or study, of not more than a reasonable portion of a work or adaptation that is described in an item of the table and is not contained in an article in a periodical publication is taken to be a fair dealing with the work or adaptation for the purpose of research or study. For this purpose, reasonable portion means the amount described in the item.

And the table is where your 10% or 1 chapter comes from.

So, what can your study group do?

Assuming the study group consists of external students of one or more educational institutions (i.e. not staff) and the material is for study for their course.

  • If it doesn't copy more than a reasonable portion, there is definitely no copyright infringement (Subclause 1A).

  • If it is more than a reasonable portion, then there is no copyright infringement if it is fair dealing according to the test in Subclause 2.

For the purposes of this Act, the matters to which regard shall be had, in determining whether a dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work or with an adaptation of a literary, dramatic or musical work, being a dealing by way of reproducing the whole or a part of the work or adaptation, constitutes a fair dealing with the work or adaptation for the purpose of research or study include:

(a) the purpose and character of the dealing;

(b) the nature of the work or adaptation;

(c) the possibility of obtaining the work or adaptation within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price;

(d) the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of, the work or adaptation; and

(e) in a case where part only of the work or adaptation is reproduced—the amount and substantiality of the part copied taken in relation to the whole work or adaptation.

Giving each other student a copy of the pdf is unlikely to be fair dealing since while the purpose is for education, the nature of the work is a textbook, it is trivial to buy copies in a reasonable time at a commercial price, the effect of the dealing is to directly reduce sales of the textbook and you are copying the whole of the work. You can certainly share the pdf, if by share you pass it around so that only one person has a copy at a time.

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