Skip to Main Content

Copyright Guidelines for Staff & Students of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (WITS): 'Fair Dealing' (Section 12)

This LibGuide provides definitions, legislation and procedures for copyright clearance for teaching and research purposes.

Public Domain


When the copyright term has expired, there is no longer protection and the material goes into the public domain, where it can be used freely.

See 'Copyright Term of Protection' under tab 'Copyright Definition and Compliance' above,

Free or Open Licensed Content


 Some authors/creators/organizations place printed and digital material in the public domain, so that it can be used without permission. For printed works, always check inside the work (usually on the first few papes of the publication) to see whether there are any free concessions, e.g. some publications allow reproductions for educational or non-commercial purposes.


On the internet, there are millions of free works. To find them, do a keyword search on “Google”, “Yahoo” or another search engine on the Internet, e.g. “free books”, “free journals”, “free [science or other subject] journals”; “free photographs”, “free images”, “free articles” “free online, full-text articles”, “free architectural drawings or symbols”, “free art or clip art”, “free diagrams”, etc.  Check that they are free though, as sometimes the word 'free' comes up on the search, but the actual item si not free.


N.B. Even though some works may be used freely, they may not be used in any way that will infringe the moral rights of authors/creators (i.e. their right to claim authorship of the work and to have protection against unjustifiable distortion, mutilation or other modification of their works). Some uses may be free, but there may be some restrictions. So, before using any material on the web, always check to see if there are any copyright restrictions.The copyright information is generally at the bottom of the homepage of a website, either under 'copyright' or terms of use' or 'conditions of use', etc. 




Limitations and Exceptions (Fair Dealing)

Fair Dealing:

Section 12 of the Copyright Act allows certain acts of reproduction to be done, without permission. 'Fair Dealing' in Section 12(1) allows reproduction for the following purposes:- 

  • Research or private study
  • Personal or private use
  • Criticism or review
  • Reporting current events (e.g. in a newspaper or broadcast)
  • Judicial proceedings or a report of judicial proceedings

 Section 12 (2-4) allow the following without permission:

  • Quotation (a fair portion)
  • 'By way of illustration' for teaching purposes (e.g. in a PowerPoint presentation).   However, if you want to circulate the PPT slides to students, you will need to clear copyright for those copyright works used in the PPT, or exclude them before circulating the slides.

N.B. 'Fair dealing' is NOT the same as 'Fair use' in the US Copyright law. It is more restrictive and reproduction of copyright works is only allowed in the above circumstances, and not for multiple copies.

Fair Dealing is not defined in the law but the generally accepted amounts that one can copy for educational and research purposes, are as follows:-

  • 10% of a book or one chapter (whichever is the greater)
  • 1 article from a journal issue
  • A full case study or full law report

Copying just one page may not always be fair, if it is the essence of the work.  One has to use one's discretion when copying other people's works.