Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Research Definition:

Investigating or closely studying a subject.

Related Terms: Fair Dealing, Copyright, Fair Use

It is typical for those jurisdictions which protect copyright to allow for an exception, sometimes called fair dealing. One of those fair dealings includes research. Thus what is and what is not research may be a significant issue between a copyright holder, and those who purport to copy such protected work under the shield of fair dealing: research. And yet, for the purposes of the law, research is not defined in statute.

In the United States,  the copyright statute is at Title 17 of the United States Code; this, at §107:

"... the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords ... for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."

In Australia, the 1968 Copyright Act, at §40(1):

"A fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, or with an adaptation of a literary, dramatic or musical work, for the purpose of research or study does not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the work."

Canada's copyright statute (2011) is blunt and to the point, at §29:

"Fair dealing for the purpose of research or private study does not infringe copyright."

In CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, Chief Justice McLachlin wrote, at ¶51:

"The fair dealing exception under §29 (of Canada's Copyright Act) is open to those who can show that their dealings with a copyrighted work were for the purpose of research or private study.

Research must be given a large and liberal interpretation in order to ensure that users’ rights are not unduly constrained.... Research is not limited to non-commercial or private contexts....

"Research for the purpose of advising clients, giving opinions, arguing cases, preparing briefs and factums is nonetheless research. Lawyers carrying on the business of law for profit are conducting research within the meaning of s. 29 of the (Canadian) Copyright Act."

In his 2011 book on intellectual property, David Vaver wrote:

Research may involve investigating or closely studying a subject. It is what lawyers do when they search for and copy legal texts, judgments, and other material to advise clients and use in arguing cases. It also applies to any form of searching, including that carried on by the general public."

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