Copyright alternatives

The Copyright Act defines the rights of copyright owners along with a range of provisions for copyright users. However, there are occassions when other factors determine how you can use material. The main factors are:


It is increasingly common for licences to be attached to copyright materials. These can override the provisions in the Copyright Act and are often more restrictive. Licences can be applied to the whole range of copyright material but it is most common for them to be attached to electronic material such as software, databases or websites. They are often called "terms of use", "terms and conditions" or something similar. You will need to read the terms of the licence to determine if your intended use of the material is permitted.

There is some debate as to how binding a licence can be if you have not actively agreed to it. However it is clear that if you or the University are paying to use the material, such as a library database or eBook, or if you have actively agreed to it, such as ticking a box accepting the terms and conditions or creating an account, then you must abide by the licence. In all other instances it is still advisable that you adhere to the terms and conditions, if you have any concerns please contact the copyright officer.

Open licences

While licences for commercial copyright material are often very restrictive more resources are being released to the public with open licences. These give you the right to use the material in the ways defined without seeking permission. They generally give you greater rights than the provisions in the Copyright Act however it is still important that you read the details of the licence and abide by them. The most widely used open licences are the Creative Common licences.

Creative Commons 

There are six standard Creative Commons licences that allow creators to keep their copyright while granting additional rights to users. All of the licences require attribution, that is you need to credit the creator of the work in a reasonable manner. To use any of the licences creators only need to mark their work with the licence they have decided to use. There are various versions of the licences, the most recent ones are:

Visit the Creative Commons website for more information.


If you wish to use copyright material in a way which is not allowed under one of the provisions in the Copyright Act you can ask for permission from the copyright owner. When asking for permission it is important to establish that you have correctly identified the copyright owner and that they have the right to grant you a licence for your intended use.

A non-exclusive licence can be given verbally but it is always preferable for it to be in writing. When asking for permission it is advisable to include the following details:

  • your details;
  • a description of the material that you plan to use;
  • what you plan to do with the material;
  • how long you wish to use the material;
  • if the use is commercial or non-commercial in nature.