Australia Copyright Basics

Copyright Basics for Everyday Australians

Have you created a work that is literary, dramatic, musical or artistic? Your work will most likely be protected by Australian copyright laws. You’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy into creating your work, so it’s important that you understand your rights and how copyright protects you from others who may copy or imitate your work.

Copyright is a group of economic rights that gives its owner, usually the creator of the work, exclusive rights to protect their work from infringement. In Australia, these rights are set out in the Copyright Act 1968 and other regulations.

What is copyright under Australian law?

Under copyright law, if you have created a work such as a literary work, a dramatic work, a musical work or an artistic work, then you are given exclusive rights to either publish the work, control copying or redistribution as well as grant the public access to the material online. Some creations are known as “subject matter other than works” and includes works such as films, sound recordings, broadcasts and published editions are also protected under the copyright law.

In brief, the law protects the written expression of an idea or concept. Works such as books, newspapers, magazines, poems along with plays, films and TV scripts enjoy copyright protection. At the same time notated music, photos, paintings maps, charts and diagrams can also be copyrighted. In fact, any concept or work that has been produced in material form can be protected under copyright law.

Along with being expressed in a material form, the work also needs to be original.

How to get copyright protection?

In Australia, copyright protection is automatic from the moment a work is placed in a material form. This can expand to include any creation that has been written down, recorded or filmed. It is not necessary that the work should be published to be eligible for copyright, but can also be protected when unpublished.

The main requirement to be fulfilled is that the information is put down in some kind of data.

Since Australia does not have a system of copyright registration, there is no requirement to pass the work through a registration process before gaining copyright protection. However, certain criteria need to be met before any copyright protection can be granted.

The work must be an original creation and not just a copy of an earlier work.

At the same time, the work should have been created by an Australian citizen or resident.

Finally, the work should either have been first published, or made, in Australia.

How long does copyright last?

Copyright protection is limited to a certain timeframe only. Typically, copyright protection lasts for 70 years after the death of its creator. Although, in the case of subject matter other than works, the copyright protection holds for 70 years from the first publication of a film or sound recording.

For a sound or television broadcast, the copyright holds for 50 years from the time it was first made and is good for 25 years after the first publication of a published work.

Why is copyright protection in your life and work?

Copyright protection is important as it is a way for authors, filmmakers, artists, publishers and other creators to protect and monetise their creation. Having the knowhow regarding copyright licensing and earning royalties gives people a system to earn money from their work.

Copyright protection can also serve to protect works from being plagiarised, so people can make original works without the fear of others copying it.

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