Copyright Infringement and Penalties

Copyright Infringement and Penalties

Copyright can be defined as the rights granted exclusively to the copyright owner to reproduce certain material, and to display or perform certain material in public. Copyright infringement is an offence under Australian law.

What material does copyright attach to?

The types of material or other creative works can include:

  • Text.
  • Artistic works.
  • Music.
  • Computer programs.
  • Sound recordings.
  • Films.

What is copyright infringement?

Australian copyright laws are contained in the Commonwealth Copyright Act 1968. Under this Act, it is an offence to:

  • Offering infringing copies of computer programs for sale.
  • Possess, sell, import, distribute or deal knowingly in an infringing copy.
  • Providing a computer program that enables it to be copied when received.

The copyright owner has the right to prevent others from reproducing or communicating their work or to sell all rights to the material to someone else. Copyright does not protect concepts, ideas, styles or techniques. Copyright is a different right to a property right in the that a person can own an item but they don’t own the copyright of the item, unless it is implicitly given.

In Australia, there is no need for copyright registration, copyright protection is automatic.

There is also no need legal requirement to publish the work or to put a copyright on it. A work is protected as soon as it is put into physical or material form. That means as soon as you write it down, record it or put it into some sort of physical form it is considered copyright.

Other ways of infringing copyright

Reproducing a copyright material or item is not the only method of copyright infringement. You can also breach copyright by:

  • Bypassing a control that stops access to digital material.
  • Removing or changing rights information on digital copies.
  • Making, selling or importing devices that bypass copyright.
  • Failing to identify or falsely identifying the true creator of the work.
  • Altering or doing something that impacts the creator’s reputation or is offensive to the creator.


The penalties for copyright infringement are:

  • For corporations – financial penalty up to $585,000.
  • For individuals – financial penalty up to $117,000 and a possible term of imprisonment of up to five years.

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