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Undergraduate Student Support: Copyright

This library guide strives to provide e-support for undergraduate students at the NWU.

What is Copyright?


Copyright infringement occurs when you:

  • perform an action which may legally only be performed by the copyright holder;
  • deprive the copyright holder of income by making illegal or unauthorised copies of a work;
  • create an illegal digital edition of a work and
  • illegally copy artistic works, e.g. images, on the Internet.

Intellectual property is protected by the South African Copyright Act 98 of 1978


Questions about Copyright

Be a Responsible Scholar: Mind Copyright!

Copyright licenses

A copyright license grants the license holder the right to exercise such rights as are granted through a license agreement e.g. a license may be granted to reproduce the pages of a book but the owner of the copyright remains the owner of the rights in question e.g. to reproduce the pages of a book.  Also, consider:

  • DALRO makes access to published work easy and affordable through licensing.
  • Reserved works:  Blanket licensing to Higher Education Institutions allows numbers of students and professional employees, who would not, in any case, have bought the published work, to lawfully gain access to a photocopied extract form the work.
  • E-copy:  If you want to create a digital edition of a work and you are not the owner of the copyright, you have to get permission from the copyright owner.
  • Out-of-printOut of print does not mean “out-of-copyright” because even if a book is out of print and the author does not generate income from its sales, they might still generate income via translation rights, film rights or photocopying.
  • Maps, drawings and pictures are “artistic works” in the Copyright Act and are also copyright protected.
  • Images on the Internet:  Even if the owner of the website has a license to use the image, it does not automatically extend to you as a visitor to his / her site.
  • Intellectual property:  If you write a book in South Africa, copyright arises automatically
  • Duration:  In SA copyright protection in literature, music and artistic works lasts for the life of the author and 50 years after his death (multiple authors – 50 years after the longest living author died).

Fair dealing

Fair use or fair dealing is provided for in a section of the SA Copyright Act.   As long as your copy does not deprive the rights holder of income, your actions are legal.  Making multiple copies of a copyright-protected work, however, falls outside fair dealing.  Fair dealing allows:

  • copying for research and study as much of a work to meet reasonable needs without seeking permission from the copyright owner and paying compensation
  • quoting from a copyright-protected work provided the source, author or copyright owner is acknowledged
  • using a work for the purpose of criticism, review or for reporting current events in a newspaper, journal or magazine