Overview of Copyright

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a bundle of rights given by law to the creator or author of a work to protect that work against unauthorised use such as publishing or reproducing the work without the permission of the copyright owner. Copyright protects not only the intellectual property in the work but also the copyright owner's right to control how their work is used and to derive an income from it. Copyright law is contained in the Copyright Act 1968.

Third Party Copyright

The term 'third party copyright material' refers to copyright material to which another person/entity holds the rights, that is, material for which neither you nor the University are the copyright owner. Permission is required to use 'third party copyright material' unless the use is covered by an exception such as educational purposes, fair dealing, or personal use.

What does Copyright Protect?

Copyright protects all works that are 'original' and written down or recorded in a material form, including both print and electronic material. Copyright applies automatically as soon as something is written down or recorded in material form. It does not have to be registered.

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

  • Literary Works including books, journal articles, short stories, poems, manuals, lyrics to songs, a table or compilation expressed in words, figures, symbols, computer programs, newspaper articles, reports, sets of instructions, any practical or information lists.
  • Artistic Works including paintings, sculptures, drawings (including diagrams, maps, charts and plans, dress patterns), cartoons, engravings (including etchings, lithographs, products of photogravure, woodcut prints or similar works), photographs, buildings or models of buildings, works of artistic craftsmanship (ceramics etc).
  • 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.
  • Musical Works - 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. Recorded music is treated as Sound Recordings and protected separately, although the underlying musical work is still copyrighted.
The four categories of subject matter other than works are:
  • Films including documentaries, feature and animated films, TV programs (including commercials), video tapes and cassettes and other fixed or recorded sequences of visual images. The visual images and film are protected separately to any copyright in works recorded on the film or video such as scripts and music.
  • Sound Recordings in any format. Sound Recordings include both recorded music as well as recorded words and sounds.
  • Broadcasts of television and radio programs. This is separate to the copyright in the films, music and other material which is transmitted.
  • 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.
Copyright protects both print and electronic material, such as websites and emails. There is no separate category for electronic material, it is protected under one of the categories above depending on the content.

More than one copyright may exist in a single article or item. For example a television documentary may contain copyright in the broadcast, scripts, music, extracts from films, artistic works and so on.

Copyright also applies to unpublished material.

How Long Does Copyright Last?

The duration of copyright varies depending on the type of material. Generally, copyright lasts the life of the author or creator, plus 70 years after their death. In some material, copyright lasts for 70 years after first publication. For more details see: Copyright cannot be renewed and once it has expired the work is considered to be in the public domain and can be used without the copyright owner's permission.

Who Owns Copyright?

The first owner of the copyright, in most cases, is the author or maker of the copyright material. There may be more than one copyright owner, for example co-authored books or journal articles. There may also be more than one copyright owner depending on the type of work, e.g. films, where the soundtrack, screenplay and the film all have separate copyrights.

Copyright ownership is different to physical ownership of a work. Just because you physically own an item does not mean that you will own the copyright in the item. This is particularly important for original artworks and photographs. Unless, you made an agreement with the artist, or creator of the work, for the transfer of copyright ownership, you will not own copyright. The artist will still have the right to reproduce, publish or communicate the art work that you own. There are also special provisions for photographs.

If the work was created as part of a person's employment then copyright is generally owned by the employer, e.g. copyright in material created by professional staff at the University is owned by the University. Academic staff own copyright in any scholarly works that they create but the University owns copyright in any teaching material created by academic staff.

If a work is commissioned then an agreement between the creator and the person commissioning the work will determine who is the copyright owner. If there is no agreement, then the creator is the copyright owner.

At any time, a copyright owner may choose to assign their copyright to another party. Copyright can also be licensed. A licence permits a person to use the material for certain purposes for a certain period. For more information see: Australian Copyright Council's InfoSheet G024 Assigning & Licensing Rights.

When a copyright owner dies, copyright ownership will generally pass to their estate.

What and How Much Can I Copy?

What and how much you can copy depends on the type of material you wish to use as well as what you intend to do with it.

If you are using material for teaching or educational purposes, see Guidelines for Using Copyright Material for Educational Purposes to find out what you are allowed to reproduce and how much.

If you wish to copy material as part of your research and study, see Fair Dealing for the limits on what and how much you can reproduce. Fair Dealing also covers using material for criticism & review and parody & satire.

If you are reproducing material to assist people with disabilities, see Guidelines for Assisting People with Disabilities.

If you are only wish to copy or use a small portion of a work, see Insubstantial Portions.

When Can I Use Copyright Material Without Permission?

You are entitled under the Copyright Act to use copyright material for certain purposes without needing to seek permission from the copyright owner and without infringing copyright. You do not need to ask for permission if:
  • You own the copyright for the work.
  • Flinders University owns the copyright and you wish to use the material for Flinders University teaching purposes or business.
  • Copyright in the work has expired.
  • You are copying or communicating an insubstantial portion.
  • You have an express licence to use the work, e.g. a contract, web site conditions, copyright owner has explicitly waived copyright, etc.
  • Your proposed use is a fair dealing and you observe the limits and rules under the fair dealing provisions.
  • You are copying or performing recorded music for educational purposes as covered by the Music Licence.
  • You are using material for educational purposes as described in the educational use provisions and you observe the limits & conditions.
  • You wish to reproduce the material for personal use and you observe the limits and rules under the personal use provisions.
If you wish to use the material outside the conditions of the exceptions you must seek permission from the copyright owner.

What is Copyright Infringement?

If you use copyright material in a way that is covered under the exclusive rights of the copyright owner without permission 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.

It is also an infringement to authorise someone else to infringe copyright.

You may also be liable for using infringing material, e.g. an illegally downloaded film or song, even if you did not create the infringing work. The exceptions in the Copyright Act such as educational purposes, fair dealing and personal use only apply to legal copies of copyright material.

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 breach or infringement of the Copyright Act seriously.

For more detail see Copyright Infringement.

More Information

Guidelines for Using Copyright Material for Educational Purposes
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