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What is copyright

This guide will assist staff in managing the copyright-protected works they use and create in their research, study, teaching, and other activities at and for the University.

The Copyright Act 1968 gives authors and other copyright owners of original 'works' the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, communicate, and adapt their material. It also gives the copyright owner the right to licence, transfer, or sell their work to others.

‘Works’ protected by copyright include written material, images, music and other sound recordings, films and other visual media, irrespective of whether they are in print or digital format, in a book, a journal, a DVD or on a website.

The exclusive nature of copyright enables the copyright owner to take legal action to prevent others from exercising any of these rights and to be awarded damages if any of these rights have been infringed.

Using copyright-protected works without permission from the copyright owner or without following the provisions of the Copyright Act, or the University’s Copyright Licences, could lead to infringement of the Act, with possibly severe repercussions for both the individual and the University.

Staff must comply with the Copyright Act and the University's Copyright Compliance Policy.

Copyright protection requirements

Under Australian copyright law, the protection of content is free and automatic as soon as it takes a material form, such as when an article is written, or a podcast is recorded.  There is no copyright register in Australia and the use of the copyright symbol ( © ) is not necessary to indicate copyright ownership.  However, it can be useful in providing evidence that you are the copyright owner.

Importantly there are some minimum requirements for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works to be protected under the Copyright Act.

  • The work must be in a material form of expression.  A video, sound recording, word document, and musical score are examples of material forms.
  • Ideas and facts are not protected.  It is the form of the idea, facts or information that is protected.
  • The material must be original, not a mere copy. The Copyright Act does not define ‘original’ but case law has established the originality threshold.*
  • The work must be created by a human through their skill, labour and independent intellectual effort.

*Source Australian Libraries and Archives Copyright Coalition

What is protected by copyright?

Australian copyright protection is available to works first published in Australia or to Australian citizens or those with whom Australia has treaty arrangements. There are very few countries remaining outside the scope of this treaty protection. Works created outside Australia should be treated as subject to copyright.

Copyright protects :

Literary Works including books, articles, short stories, poems, manuals, lyrics to songs, a table or compilation expressed in words, figures, symbols, 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).

Musical works including musical scores for opera, operetta, orchestral, ensemble, band and other musical performances as well as music for songs, jingles and incidental music whether in the material form of sheet music, broadsheets or other notation.

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 eg. mime, dance.

Computer programs meaning the written expression of a computer program (ie the code) and as such, are treated as literary works.

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 including vinyl records, compact discs, audiotapes and cassettes, reel to reel tapes, cartridges and other fixed or recorded sounds.

Broadcasts of television and radio programs including podcasts that originated as broadcasts. This is separate to the copyright in the films, music and other material which is transmitted.

Published editions of works meaning not the work in the edition but the edition itself ie. the typographical arrangement in which the publisher presents the work (the typeset). It applies to all new editions of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works.

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.

Exceptions under the Act

There are exceptions to the exclusive rights enjoyed by owners of copyright in literary, dramatic and musical works.

There is no copyright infringement if:

  • you obtain permission from the copyright owner;
  • the copyright is owned by the University;
  • the material has been supplied to the University with a licence to copy;
  • the copying and/or communication falls within provisions in the Copyright Act that allow 'insubstantial amounts' of copying without payment; or
  • the copying is covered by the statutory licence; by this licence universities pay creators, through Copyright Agency Limited (CAL), for use of their copyright works.

Fair Dealing

The fair dealing exceptions in the Copyright Act are individual, personal rights that allow limited amounts of copyright material to be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner for the following purposes.

Fair dealing for the purpose of research or study

You may copy a 'reasonable portion', e.g. 10% or 1 chapter of a work; 1 article of a journal issue (or more if they concern the same topic of research or course of study) of copyright items for private study or research.

Fair dealing for the purpose of review or critique

Copyright work may be copied for inclusion in, for instance, an essay, conference paper or journal article for the purpose of commenting critically on the material. Any such use should cite the work and author (unless the author is anonymous or has agreed or directed that they not be named).

Fair dealing for parody or satire

You can use copyright material for the purposes of parody and satire, provided your use is “fair”.
”Fairness” of use may depend on:
• how much of the copyright material is used; 
• the context in which the parody or satire is used; and 
• whether or not the copyright owner generally licenses such uses.

Fair dealing for reporting the news

Copyright material may be used in reporting news (not simply providing entertainment) in a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, or in a film, or by means of a broadcast, provided the use is 'fair'. The author and title of the work must be acknowledged.

Music in news reports is not covered by this provision unless the music is played as part of the news.

Fair dealing for professional advice

Under this provision you can copy material to be used in judicial proceedings, reporting judicial proceedings or the giving of professional advice by a legal practitioner. The use of the material must genuinely be to give such advice, and must be “fair”. 

The fair dealing exceptions do not apply to multiple copying, publication, or communication of materials for educational purposes. 

Consult the Subject resources, and iLearn sections for sharing content with students.

Based on information provided by the Australian Copyright Council.

Moral rights

Moral rights are rights relating to a creator's reputation in connection with their work and have nothing to do with morality. You must give the creator of a literary, musical, artistic, or dramatic work in any format the right to be attributed as the creator of the work and the right to have the integrity of the work respected. These rights supplement the right of a creator not to have their work falsely attributed.

There are three Moral rights for authors and other creators:

The right of attribution

You should attribute a creator when you reproduce a work in any format and it should be clear and reasonably prominent so that the person receiving a reproduction of the work will have notice of the creator's identity.

The right not to have their work falsely attributed

An author/creator has the right to stop someone else from being credited as the author/creator of their work.  This right protects the reputation of the creator.

The right of integrity

A creator's work should not be subjected to derogatory treatment nor should you do something to a creator's work that is prejudicial to the reputation of the creator.

Common Questions

Does copyright protect ideas?

Copyright does not protect ideas. It protects the material form in which ideas are expressed, described or put into effect, such as a screenplay or drawing. For example, the idea of making a film about Gallipoli is not protected by copyright, but the film's screenplay and the images and sounds in the film 'Gallipoli' are protected.

How long does copyright last?

This varies according to the type of material. Generally, copyright in a work lasts from when it was created to 70 years after the year of the author's death or in the case of joint authors the death of the last joint author. 

When copyright has expired, the work is in the Public Domain and can be used without permission.

As of 1 January 2019, the following applies:

  • Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works
    • 70 years after the death of the author/creator
  • Orphan Works
    • 70 years after the work was made public / 70 years after it was created
  • Films and Sound Recordings
    • 70 years after the work was made public / 70 years after it was created

The material you want to use may contain more than one work or type of material protected by copyright and as such the length of copyright for each type may vary. 

Refer to the Australian Government Duration of Copyright Table for further details.

What happens when copyright expires?

When copyright has expired anyone can use the material without infringing copyright. Copyright cannot be renewed.

Is there an Australian copyright register?

There is no Australian registration system for copyright protection. Copyright protection does not depend on a copyright notice or the copyright symbol, ©, being incorporated into the work. Protection is automatic and free. 

A work is automatically protected from the time it is first written down or recorded in some way. Copyright will only apply where the material is original. Original does not mean original in thought but only that some degree of skill and effort has been employed by the creator and it has not been copied from another.

Creative Commons

Creative commons provide access to licensed media that you can legally share and reuse for free.

Creative Commons Licences: The copyright holder keeps copyright but allows people to copy and distribute copyrighted work provided they meet the stipulations in the licence.

 See the Creative Commons Licences page for details.

Copyright for staff