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A super simple overview of copyright in Australia

Copyright in Australia is often shrouded in myth and misinformation. In reality, it’s not as complex as you might think! We have compiled a short primer which will help dispel any misconceptions or confusion you may have over how copyright works in Australia.

Copyright protection in Australia is free and is active automatically when eligible. You do not need to register for copyright in Australia. The copyright notice (e.g. “© <year> <company>”) does not need to be displayed for copyright to apply.

What is not protected by copyright in Australia?

Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, ideas, information, or techniques (which doesn’t mean they can’t be protected, they are just protected under different regulations. For example, trademarking.)

What is protected by copyright in Australia?

Copyright does protect original literary works (e.g. textual material, computer programs, and compilations), artistic works (including design), dramatic works, musical works, cinematograph films, sound recordings, and published editions.

When do I need permission to use copyrighted work?

You need permission if you use any works protected by copyright, except in a few select cases.

Some common cases where you do not need permission include:

  • You do not use a “substantial” (defined as “important, distinctive or essential”) part
  • You can rely on a specific “exception” to copyright
  • Copyright has expired (duration of copyright depends on the type of material in question)

Some copyright holders offer free licenses for others to use their material, such as Creative Commons.  However, free licenses are usually subject to conditions and limits (e.g. attribution and for non-commercial purposes only). Make sure you carefully read the relevant terms and conditions before using material offered under a free license. For more information, refer to the “Creative Commons Licenses” information sheet from the Australian Copyright Council.

For more in depth information on how copyright works, visit www.copyright.org.au

Did you know?

Copyright is held by the creator and not always the person who paid for it. The transfer of copyright ownership needs to be confirmed (most commonly in writing). This has proved to be quite a shock for many businesses in the past!  We look after our customers, so with all our graphic design work copyright is automatically transferred over once payment is received.

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