Copyright Basics

What is copyright?

A simple definition of copyright is that it is a bunch of rights in certain creative material such as text, artistic works, music, computer programs, sound recordings  and films.

The copyright owner has the right to control how their material is used. Copyright owners can prevent others from copying or communicating their material without their permission.

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, styles or techniques. For example, copyright will not protect an idea for a film or book, but it will protect a script or even a storyboard for the film.

Copyright is a separate right to the property right in an object. This means that the person who owns a book or painting will not own copyright in the book or painting unless it has been specifically assigned to them.

In Australia, copyright protection is automatic. There is no need for copyright registration in Australia, nor is there a legal requirement to publish the material or to put a copyright notice on it. Material will be protected as soon as it is put into material form, such as being written down or recorded in some way (eg filmed or recorded).

In Australia, copyright law is contained in the Copyright Act 1968.

Some common misconceptions

Here are some common copyright myths:

    • You must register copyright in Australia otherwise the material is copyright free.

No formal registration of copyright is required in Australia. This means you should generally assume that content will be protected by copyright.

    • If there is no copyright symbol or notice, then the material is copyright free.

The absence of a copyright symbol or notice on material does not mean that the copyright owner has abandoned their copyright or has granted an implied licence for anyone to use or reproduce or communicate their material.

    • Once material is published or in the public domain, anyone can use it.

The fact that material has been published or is made freely available does not mean that the:

o   copyright owner has abandoned their copyright or

o   material has entered the public domain and is no longer protected by copyright.

If you wish to copy and/or communicate the material, you must:

o   rely on one of the statutory or voluntary licences

o   rely on one of the copyright exceptions or

o   obtain permission from the copyright owner.

    • I am not infringing copyright if I am not making any money from my use of the material.

Your use may infringe copyright irrespective of whether you are making any money or profit from the use.