“Fair use” is a crucial part of copyright law, without it the system would crash under the weight of endless infringements. Anytime anyone copied even a small part of any copyrighted work, no matter for what purpose or for what effect, they would be liable for the infringement – if it were not for fair use. Under US law, fair use is a balance of four factors:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

And yet, the term “fair use” is nowhere to be found in Cambodia’s Law on Copyright & Related Rights. Instead of the fact-specific balancing done in US courts, the Cambodian law lists specific exceptions, as follows:

Article 24

The private reproduction of a published work in a single copy shall be permitted without the authorization of the author or the right-holder, where the reproduction is made by a natural person exclusively for his own personal purposes. 

Article 25

The author cannot prohibit the following acts:

1. Free and private representations made exclusively to a close circle of people such as family or friends.

2. The arrangement to preserve in a library the copy of work for the purpose of conservation or research.

3. The use of work for the purposes of education, which is not for financial gain.

4. The translation of works from Khmer language into the languages of the ethnic minorities or vice versa;

If there is a clear indication of the author’s name and the source of work, the following acts are not subjected to any prohibitions by the author:

1. The analyses and short quotations justified by the critical, polemical, pedagogical, scientific or informative nature of that work.

2. The broadcasting of press commentary.

3. The dissemination of speeches addresses to the public either entirely or in part, through press release or television broadcasting.

4. The adaptation of comic, style or caricature, based on original work.

5. The reproduction of graphic or plastic work which is situated in the public place, when this reproduction doesn’t constitute the principle subject for subsequent reproduction. 

Article 29

Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 21 of this law, it is permitted to:

1. Use a legally published work for the purpose of illustration in publication such as book or newspaper, or by broadcasting, or by audio or visual screening which are intended for educational purposes, without payment of any remuneration. In this connection, source and author’s name must be identified, if author’s name is given in the source.

2. Reproduce any separated articles, articles of the newspaper or magazine, or short extracts of any legally published works. This reproduction can be done providing that it is made by reprographic means, and must be used for the sake of teaching or for examinations held by any educational establishments of which the activities do not lead directly or indirectly to commercial gain and must be done with appropriate reason according to this specific objective. The said reproduction can be done without the author’s authorization and without payment of any remuneration, but if the author’s name is mentioned in the source, this source and name must be identified

These exceptions are somewhat problematic. Libraries and schools are essentially given free reign to photocopy copyrighted books as they please, completely eviscerating any incentive to produce such works. Under Article 25.4, it would seem that any adaptation would be non-infringing. Adaptations of books to film, such as the Harry Potter or X-Men series, would seem not to require the original author’s permission or compensation. As copyright cases are rarely brought in Cambodian courts, it remains to be seen what these exceptions mean in practice.