Copyright in journalism is a relevant topic for all media organisations. Journalists and freelancers often need to draw on other people’s work when reporting the news. As a general principle, journalists do not require the permission of the copyright owner where the copyright period has expired, and they will not be using a substantial or key part of the material. Otherwise, journalists may be able to rely on one of the fair dealing exceptions. This article explains the relevant fair dealing exceptions which media organisations can use to avoid breaching copyright in journalism.

Copyright in Journalism and the Fair Dealing Exceptions

The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (the Act) allows for certain circumstances where a media organisation or journalist can use copyright protected material without permission. These include fair dealings.

There are three fair dealing defences which a media organisation can rely on to avoid copyright infringement. They include:

  1. Fair dealing for news reporting (s 42);
  2. Fair dealing for criticism or review (s 41); and
  3. Fair dealing for parody or satire (s 41A).

1. Fair Dealing For News Reporting

A media organisation must meet the following requirements to rely on a fair dealing for the purpose of news:

  • The copyright owner is sufficiently acknowledged; and
  • Use of the copyright material was for the purpose or associated with the news reporting.

Media organisations also should be wary of playing musical works in the course of their news reporting. Playing musical works is not a fair dealing under s 42(2) of the Act if the music does not form part of the news which is being reported.

2. Fair Dealing For The Purpose of Criticism or Review

A fair dealing for the purpose of criticism or review also requires that the copyright owner is sufficiently acknowledged. The criticism or review must involve making a humorous and genuine judgement of the material.

Therefore, a journalist can reproduce passages for the purpose of critiquing or reviewing the work as long as they have sufficiently acknowledged the author and have not excessively used the material.

3. Fair Dealing For The Purpose of Parody or Satire

Unlike the first two fair dealing exceptions, a media organisation is not required to acknowledge the copyright owner sufficiently when relying on a fair dealing for the purpose of parody or satire.

However, use of the copyright material must be fair. While the courts have not yet considered what constitutes fair, the Australian Copyright Council has provided helpful guidance. Some relevant factors for determining fairness can include:

  • How much material is used;
  • The context of the satire or parody; and
  • Whether the owner would licence their material for this use.


If you are a journalist of media organisation requiring further assistance or have any more questions, our intellectual property lawyers would be glad to assist. Call LegalVision today on 1300 744 755.

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