What is copyright?

When a person creates a work it is their intellectual property. The creator/author has the right to authorise what people can do with their work: this is copyright. The creator does not need to apply for copyright, once a work is created it is automatically copyrighted. One way that creators, especially of books, remind people that their work is copyrighted is by the use of the © symbol. Usually copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator/author. After this time the work enters the public domain and can be used without permission or payment.

Why do we need it?

Copyright allows creators to:
  • Protect their work from being used without permission 
  • To earn an income from the use of their work by others 

What is the Copyright Act?

The Copyright Act 1968 is the legal document that regulates the rights of creators/authors in Australia. It outlines what can and cannot be done with a work including books, music and movies. The act also outlines any exceptions that allows copying to be done without gaining permission, for example, being allowed to copy one chapter or 10% of a book without gaining permission.

Why is it important to respect intellectual property?

There are three main reasons:
  • To promote creativity we need to support the creators by providing income generated from using their work 
  • To promote freedom of speech and expression 
  • It is wrong to steal other peoples work 

How does copyright work in a digital environment?

Copyright also applies in the digital world. It does not matter what country the digital material originated in as international agreements do exist between countries. This may mean that an international website is covered by copyright. In Australia the Copyright Act has been amended to reflect the increase in digital formats. This means that:
  • Copyright limits are applicable 
  • You need to check for copyright notices 
  • If it’s an international source, you need to check the copyright 

How is copyright related to music and images found in digital media and on the internet?

Copyright does cover digital images and music. Sometimes the creator may make the material copyright free but you need to check. The most popular form of copyright free material is Creative Commons. If the material is covered by copyright you need to gain permission to use it from the creator or the agencies acting on their behalf, no matter how much of the work you want to use.

The rights related to music are:
  • reproduction
  • communication 
  • performance 
  • mechanical