If you are the author of any kind of original work, such as a computer programme, book, film or other type of work, it's protected by the laws of copyright. So, how do the laws in Australia relating to copyright work?

A copyright is a legal device that gives the author of literary, artistic, musical or other creative work the sole right to publish and sell that work. The owner may grant or sell those rights to others. 

In Australia, copyright law is primarily governed by the Copyright Act 1968. The key points to remember are:

  1. Copyright law provides a legal framework to control new creations and incentives to create new artistic works;

  2. Protection is free and automatically applies to material created (as depicted by the Copyright © symbol). In Australia, there is no need to register copyright (as distinct from a trademark);

  3. Copyright does not protect business names, slogans or titles (a trademark does);

  4. There are narrow and specific situations where copyright law allows a person to use material without permission;

  5. The law applies to events which occur in Australia, even if the material was used or published in another country.

2. What works are protected?

Copyright can protect many and various types of works, which can include but are not limited to the following: 

  1. Textual material, such as novels, songs and lyrics

  2. Computer programmes

  3. Compilations, such as anthologies

  4. Art, such as paintings, drawings or architectural plans

  5. Dramatic works, such as screenplays

  6. Musical works and lyrics

  7. Films and sound recordings

  8. Broadcasts and published editions.

For copyright to apply to any of the above works, it must be an original work. It must be a product of the creator's own intellectual effort and not copied from another person or entity. 

Copyright automatically applies to any type of the above original works, without the need to formally register a copyright protection. It will suffice to use the copyright symbol © to protect your work. 

The protection afforded by a copyright lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years. 

Copyright can easily be infringed in many ways. Many people infringe copyright laws without knowing. You can infringe copyright, and therefore, commit a breach of copyright law, by the any of the following:

  1. Using the works, or part of the works, in any of the ways exclusively controlled by the copyright owner, without the permission of the owner.

  2. Authorising infringement, by asking or encouraging someone to copy or use the work without permission

  3. Importing or selling items subject to copyright protection.

There is no registration requirement and original works are afforded automatic protection if:

  1. it is in a category of works protected by copyright

  2. A sufficient connection can be made to Australia.

Works can be used if the permission of the owner is sought. A written agreement would be advisable to set out the purpose and use of the work. 

It is rare to have to prove that a certain person created a work, however, it is always advisable to keep proper records to document ownership of a work. For example, you could keep records of:

  1. Drafts and outlines of the work

  2. Research undertaken in relation to the work

  3. Discussions with others

  4. Stages of development.

What should I do if my copyright is infringed?

It is up to you to take action if you think someone has infringed your copyright.  A civil action can allow you to stop the infringement and/or claim compensation.   

This article contains information of a general nature only and is not specific to your circumstances. This is not legal advice and should not be relied upon without independent legal or financial advice, specific to your circumstances.