The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (in the UK) provides for 'fair dealing.' It allows for copies to be made of a copyright-protected work for the purpose of private study. I was wondering three things about fair dealing for the purpose of private study:

  1. Does fair dealing in this case include making modifications or adaptations of a work, or is it restricted to reproducing the work?
  2. Do you have to provide acknowledgement for the source? I was considering this because the 'fair dealing' for research purposes required you to give an acknowledgement, but for private study this doesn't seem to be necessary, perhaps because the only person who'll view the product is you.
  3. Are there any restrictions on 'fair dealing' for private study?

Below is the relevant clause but you can also find the legislation here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/48/part/I/chapter/III/crossheading/general#:~:text=Research%20and%20private%20study.

Fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work for the purposes of private study does not infringe any copyright in the work.

Thanks a lot for any help - I greatly appreciate it

1 Answer 1


In general fair dealing means that the specific dealing (usage) in question must be "fair," and for allowable purpose, in your case private study.

Unfortunately this is not a statutorily defined term. Additionally, unlike the US and Canada, there appears to be no canonical list of factors contributing to a finding of fairness in the UK. The best I can find is Healing Fair Dealing (Giuseppina D’Agostino, 2008, at pgs 342-344) which lists 8 factors gathered from multiple cases and places emphasis on market impact.

That said, here's my answers from what I've read:

  1. Yes, modifications/adaptations are in scope and can in fact help in a finding of fairness.

  2. Given absence of the acknowledgement requirement next to a provision where it is required, I'd say it probably isn't required. Additionally CDPA s. 77 is illuminating, generally not requiring acknowledgement in non-commercial contexts. And your logic makes sense here.

  3. The main restrictions would be whether your dealing is unfair. Specifically for private studying I could see the amount of copying, the manner of obtaining the source copy, the market impact, and possible alternatives to the dealing as factors influencing a fairness finding. There's additionally specific restrictions for dealings with computer programs which are defined to be statutorily unfair directly in CDPA s. 29.

  • While the copyright act does not positively define the phrase "fair dealing," it does have a lot to say about what fair dealing is and isn't in various circumstances.
    – phoog
    Feb 9, 2022 at 9:21
  • @phoog True, though the only relevant ones I could spot with respect to private study were those relating to computer programs (and also a restriction if someone copies on the private studier's behalf in s. 29(3), but this seemed out of scope of the the OP was asking).
    – DPenner1
    Feb 9, 2022 at 15:46

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