Applying for Rights & Permissions

Provisions in the Copyright Act regarding photocopying


1 The extent to which copyright literary, musical and artistic works may be used:

a. The Copyright Act recognises that there are instances when it is not in the interests of society to prohibit photocopying in all circumstances, and it makes allowances for certain acts of copying:

  • Copyright shall not be infringed by any fair dealing with a literary or musical work for the purposes of research or private study by, or the personal or private use of, the person using the work (section 12(1)(a)).
  • The copyright in a literary or musical work shall not be infringed by using such work, to the extent justified by the purpose, by way of illustration in any publication, broadcast or sound or visual record for teaching. (section 12(4)).

b. During a lesson, a teacher may use a copy such as an overhead projection, a slide, a sound tape, a video, a computer programme, a photocopy or a handwritten copy on a chalkboard, to illustrate the lesson. It should not form the whole of the lesson, or be the sole means by which the lesson is taught, but is merely intended to amplify or explain what is being taught.

c. There are no provisions in the Copyright Act that permit the reproduction of whole books. NB: It is illegal to photocopy a whole book without permission from the owner of copyright.

Copyright regulations

1 Libraries open to the public or researchers (including school libraries). The following provisions apply to these concessions:

a. The library must display prominently, at the place where orders are accepted, a copyright warning:

  • Any order form must also include a copyright warning.
  • No library may make commercial gain from these transactions.

2 Multiple copies for classroom use:

a. Regulations 7 – 9 set out the concessions for multiple copying for classroom use. A teacher may make, for distribution to pupils:

  • not more than one short poem, article, story or essay or two excerpts copied from the same author or more than three short poems, articles, stories or essays from the same collective work or periodical volume for the purpose of instructing a particular class during any one term – provided that:
  • not more than nine instances of such multiple copying take place for one course of instruction to a particular class during any one term.

b. Only one copy per pupil per course may be made.

c. Copies may not be used to create or replace or substitute anthologies, compilations or collective works.

d. No copies may be made from ephemeral works such as workbooks, exercises, standardised tests and test booklets and answer sheets.


This document was adapted by PASA from a document developed by Monica Seeber of DALRO, in association with the GDE Copyright Forum. This document is endorsed by The Department of Education and the South African Book Association. Reference: Copyright Act, No 98 of 1978 as amended. (Copies obtainable from The Government Printer, Private Bag X84, Pretoria, 0001.)

Frequently asked questions

What is protected under the Copyright Act?

Literary (whether in written, printed or digital form), musical and artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings, broadcasts, programme-carrying signals, computer programmes and published editions.

Surely it is acceptable to photocopy as much as I want for my classes as long as it is for educational purposes, and not for profit?

The Copyright Act does not say anywhere that you may copy as much as you like as long as it is not for commercial purposes.

But the school has bought the book I want to copy from. If it belongs to the school, why must I ask someone else for permission? 

You have to separate the physical property (the book) from the intellectual property (the content) contained in it. Ownership of the book is not the same as ownership of the ideas as expressed in it. The expression of those ideas belongs to the author. The publisher has a separate copyright in the published edition or the typographical arrangement on the page.

May I freely photocopy from a book that is out of print? 

No. Out of print does not mean out of copyright. Copyright in the content lasts for 50 years after the death of the author. Copyright in the published edition lasts for 50 years from the date of publication.

Is it legal to photocopy an illustration (a photograph, map or diagram) and hand it out to my class for insertion into their exercise books? 


I can’t afford to apply for a licence to reproduce an artistic work. To what extent must I change it so that it is no longer a copy? 

There is no copyright in ideas or in information, but there is copyright in the way they are expressed. It is legally acceptable to present the same information in an original, value-added manner, as long as it in no way resembles the genuine artistic work.

I want to photocopy pages from a published workbook and hand them to my classes. Is this allowed by the regulations, since the purpose is “classroom use or discussion”? 

No copies may be made from works intended to be ephemeral*, including workbooks, exercises, standardised texts, etc. (sub-regulation 9(b)). * ephemeral – lasting for only a short time

May I enlarge and photocopy a map, picture or diagram and stick it on the wall of my classroom? 

Yes, this is allowed by section 12(4) of the Copyright Act.

I am busy putting together an exam paper. May I include a short extract from a book? 

Yes, if the extract is short you may reproduce it (“quote” from it), but you must cite the source and author (see section 12(3) of the Copyright Act).

May I photocopy a cartoon, ‘tippex’ out the words in the bubbles, and ask pupils to insert their own words? 


May I make a backup copy of a video and store it in the school library? 


How many copies of the chosen section may I copy for my students? 

The copyright regulations promulgated in terms of section 13 of the Act permit multiple copies for students as follows: not more than nine instances of multiple copying may take place for one course of instruction to a particular class during any one term. Furthermore, only one copy per pupil per course may be made.

What must I do when I need to photocopy more than is allowed by the Copyright Act and Regulations? 

You must obtain a licence. If Oxford University Press Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd. is the copyright holder, you must fill in the Photocopying Request Form and return it to us. We will then advise you if the amount you wish to copy is permissable and quote you the charge for doing so. You will receive confirmation in writing.

If the material is not the copyright of Oxford University Press Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd., The Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (DALRO) is mandated by most publishers and authors worldwide to administer their reprographic reproduction rights and issue licences. Application for a licence should be made to DALRO. Write to DALRO, P O Box 31627, Braamfontein, 2017, or call (011) 489-5000.On receipt of the application, DALRO will issue a quotation of the cost.

How much does a licence cost? 

In 2002 the schools tariff for a transactional licence to photocopy is R0, 11 per page per photocopy plus VAT. The tariff is adjusted annually.

What about obtaining a licence to copy works published outside South Africa? Can I still apply to DALRO? 

The application must still be submitted to DALRO, as they have reciprocal agreements with RROs in other parts of the world. DALRO will send the money collected to the RRO concerned.

Do the copyright regulations apply to school libraries and public libraries? 

Yes. When making copies, a librarian may not photocopy the same extract for a whole crowd of students, whether they come into the library all at once, or one by one over a period of time. The purpose of this prohibition is to prevent abuse of the regulations, which permit certain acts of copying for classroom use or discussion, and also to prevent abuse of the fair dealing provision in section 12(1)(a) of the Act itself, which allows someone to make a single copy for personal and private use, or for scholarship or research. The following copyright warning must be displayed in the immediate vicinity of all unsupervised photocopying equipment.

Copyright Warning

The Copyright Act, 1978, governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under the provisions of the Act libraries and archive depots are authorised to supply photocopies or other reproductions. One of these provisions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purposes other than private study or personal or private use. If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes not permitted by the Act, that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its opinion, fulfilment of the order might involve violation of the Act.