Copyright refers to a bundle of rights designed to protect created material from exploitation. Copyright sets out the rules around copying, communicating, altering, publishing and performing and otherwise using works and other materials created by others.
Copyright allows creators to remunerate their work and have some control over how their work is used by others. For users, copyright may allow you to use someone else's work without needing direct permission.
Copyright does not protect ideas, data, names, titles, or slogans. The work or idea must be expressed in material form.
- literary works: written books, journals, reports, articles, stories, poems and lyrics
- dramatic works: written plays, scripts and screenplays
- musical works: written compositions and annotated musical work
- artistic works: images, maps, graphs, diagrams, illustrations, paintings, and drawings
- sound recordings: musical and non-musical
- films: moving images
- published editions: protects the text, format and layout of new published versions of out of copyright works.
Copyright is automatic in Australia and needs no formal registration. As soon as your idea is expressed in a tangible format (for example, written out, drawn, or recorded), it is protected.
Copyright is usually owned by the creator, however copyright can be shared, sold, given or contracted away.
The copyright in material you create belongs to you, unless you sign a contract to state otherwise.
If you create work as part of your employment, copyright will likely be owned by your employer as stated in your employment contract. If your employer is commissioned or contracted by another company to create work on their behalf, copyright will likely be owned by the commissioning company.
If you sign a contract with a publisher, research, or funding body, check the agreement terms to see who will own copyright. If the contract is unclear, request a clarification from the other party.
If you collaborate with someone, copyright is owned equally by the multiple creators. It’s a good idea to have a contract or written statement that confirms you created the work together and hold equal copyright ownership.
All copyright owners need to approve a request to reproduce the work before someone can copy or communicate any part of it. You can delegate someone in your agreement to make these decisions for you.
Researchers and academics
Researchers and academics own copyright in their scholarly material, unless your contract states the research or funding body owns copyright. Most publishers will take ownership the copyright in scholarly material upon acceptance to publish the work.
Scholarly works can include essays, books, chapters, journal articles, documentaries, poems, etc.
The University owns copyright in:
- research and works created in the course of research, such as (but not limited to) logbooks, reports and databases
- original teaching material
- material created by professional staff as part of their employment, including emails and reports
- works created in the course of research by academic staff as part of their employment.
Students own copyright in their own original work unless they agree in writing to transfer such ownership to another party.
UniSQ will always ask for written permission to use student intellectual property.
Copyright owners generally have the following rights over their work:
- to reproduce (make a copy)
- to publish (or cause the work to become publicly available)
- to perform publicly (live, on stage or presenting at a conference)
- to communicate (to make it available online or electronically)
- to broadcast (radio or television)
- to make adaptations (to make different versions of the work).
You need permission from the copyright owner to use the material in any of the above ways, unless allowed under an exception in the Copyright Act.
Creators of material have a special set of rights called moral rights. Moral rights apply regardless of whether the creator owns the copyright or not.
Moral rights are:
- the right to be correctly attributed
- the right to act if your work is falsely attributed
- the right to object to the derogatory or prejudicial treatment of your work.
You have the right to be named as the creator (even if you are not the copyright owner) unless you have agreed not to be attributed as the creator.
In Australia, copyright normally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, copyright duration rules have changes, so different rules may apply. Check the Australian Copyright Council Duration of Copyright fact sheets for the latest guidelines.
If copyright has expired, then the material becomes part of the public domain and is free for anyone to use, for any purpose.