The two main exceptions to copyright as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 are fair dealing and library privilege. These exceptions permit some copying for the purposes of research or private study.
Section 29(1) of the CDPA 1988 deals with fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study. It says: 'Fair dealing with a literary work, other than a database, or a dramatic, musical or artistic work for the purposes of research or private study does not infringe any copyright in the work or, in the case of a published edition, in the typographical arrangement.'
Regulation 8 of the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/3032) inserted subsection 1(A) 'Fair dealing with a database for the purpose of research or private study does not infringe any copyright in the database provided that the source is indicated'.
The problem is that the Act does not define what is meant by the phrase 'fair dealing'. It is therefore left for the courts to decide whether or not a particular instance of copying is fair, based upon the individual merits of the case. This point is made in an important case which pre-dates the current Act, where Lord Denning emphasised that what is fair will depend on the particular circumstances of the case. 7