Copyright at Flinders

Welcome to the Flinders University's copyright website. Flinders University respects the rights of copyright owners and requires all staff and students to comply with copyright law. This site is designed to help you determine how you can use copyright material as well as informing you about your rights as a creator of copyright material. Copyright law is complex and this site only refers to the aspects of the law which will be most relevant to Flinders staff and students.


What is copyright?

Copyright is a bundle of rights given by law to the creator of a work for a period of time. It is designed to encourage creation by giving the copyright owner the right to control how their work is used and to derive an income from it. Australian copyright law is contained in the Copyright Act 1968.

What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects all original works that are recorded in a material form, including both print and electronic material. It does not protect ideas. Copyright applies automatically as soon as something is recorded in material form, it does not need to be registered or published.

The Copyright Act divides material into categories of works and subject matters other than works, these are:

Subject Matter other than works

Literary works including books, journal articles, short stories, poems, manuals, song lyrics, tables or compilations expressed in words, figures, symbols, computer programs, newspaper articles, reports, sets of instructions, any practical or information lists.

Films including documentaries, feature and animated films, TV programs (including commercials), video tapes and cassettes and other fixed or recorded sequences of visual images.

Dramatic works including plays, television, radio and film scripts, scenarios and other works intended to be performed such as choreographic notations, even where the work does not include spoken words e.g. mime, dance.

Sound recordings in any format, e.g. mp3, CDs, vinyl records, cassette tapes. Sound Recordings include both recorded music as well as recorded words and sounds.

Musical works including written or notated music including musical scores for opera, operetta, orchestral, ensemble, band and other musical performances as well as music for songs, jingles and incidental music.

Broadcasts of television and radio programs. This is separate to the copyright in the films, music and other material which is transmitted.

Artistic works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, diagrams, maps, charts and plans, dress patterns, cartoons, engravings, etchings, lithographs, woodcut prints, photographs, buildings or models of buildings, works of artistic craftsmanship (ceramics etc).

Published editions of a literary, dramatic or musical work where copyright has expired and therefore is in the public domain. Copyright applies to the published edition but only protects the typographical arrangement and layout.

What are the rights of the copyright owner?

Copyright ownership is different from the physical ownership of a work. You may own a physical work but the copyright owner maintains a range of exclusive rights. These vary depending on the category of the copyright material but in general the copyright owner has the exclusive right to:

  • reproduce/copy the work;
  • publish the work;
  • perform the work in public or cause it to be seen/heard in public;
  • communicate (make available online) the work to the public;
  • make adaptations of the work.

The Copyright Act also grants additional moral rights.

Who owns copyright?

It can be difficult determining who owns copyright in a work but these are some general things to consider:

  • The creator of the material is usually the first owner of the copyright.
  • An employer is usually the owner of copyright in material created as part of a person's employment. Flinders staff should read the Intellectual Property policy.
  • There can be more than one copyright owner. 
  • A copyright owner can assign their copyright to another party.
  • A copyright owner can license their copyright to another party for certain purposes for a certain period.
  • The copyright owner of a commissioned work will usually depend on the agreement between the creator and commissioner. There are special provisions for commissioned photographs.  
  • When a copyright owner dies, the copyright ownership will generally pass to their estate.

How long does copyright last?

The duration of copyright generally lasts the life of the creator, plus 70 years after their death. This can vary depending on the type of material, the copyright owner, and its publication status. When copyright expires in a work it cannot be renewed and the work is considered to be in the public domain.

When can I use copyright material?

Whilst copyright protects the rights of the copyright owner, it also seeks to promote the free flow and exchange of information by providing a number of exceptions for the use of copyright material. The context of the situation will determine if you can use the material and how you can use it. Almost all of the exceptions will have some conditions and limitations so it is important that you look at the details to determine if they allow for your intended use.    

Flinders University staff and students can use material if:

  • You own the copyright for the work.
  • Flinders University owns the copyright and you wish to use the material for Flinders University teaching or business purposes.
  • Copyright in the work has expired.
  • You are using an insubstantial portion.
  • You have permission from the copyright owner for your intended use.
  • You have an express licence to use the work, e.g. a contract, creative commons licence, website conditions.
  • Your proposed use is a fair dealing, e.g. for research or study, criticism or review, parody or satire, reporting the news.
  • You are reproducing material that you own for your personal use.
  • You are reproducing material in an accessible format to assist a student with a disability.
  • Your use is for the educational purposes of Flinders University and is allowed under the statutory licence provisions.
  • You are copying, recording, or performing music for educational purposes or at a Flinders University event as covered by the music licence.
  • Your proposed use is a special case as defined under s200AB.

What is copyright infringement?

If you use, or authorise someone else to use, copyright material in a way that is an exclusive right of the copyright owner or in a way that is not covered by one of the exceptions outlined above then you have infringed copyright. It is an offence under Australian law to infringe copyright and penalties may apply.

Flinders University requires that all staff and students are aware of their responsibilities relating to copyright and to ensure that they do not infringe copyright. The University takes any infringement of the copyright seriously.

If you are unsure if your intended use of material will infringe copyright please contact the copyright librarian.

What's new in copyright?

The Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Act came into effect on 22 December 2017. Changes include:

  • A new fair dealing exception for purpose of access by persons with a disability and a new exception for use of copyright material by organisations assisting persons with a disability.
  • A simplified educational statutory licence which replaces Part VA and VB.
  • Simplified library exceptions for preservation, research and administration purposes.
  • Term changes for unpublished material (to come into effect 1 January 2019).

Information in this site has been updated to reflect these changes.