Put simply, copyright is the right of the creator of a piece of
work to stop other people reproducing their original piece.
Copyright gives economic and moral rights to the creator of the
To be covered under Australian copyright law, the work must be
made by an Australian resident or citizen or be first published in
Many people use this symbol, with a date, to show that their
work is covered by copyright, however in Australia this is not
What is it?
Copyright legally protects the work of creators, such
as artists, writers and musicians.
The Copyright Act does not discriminate against
works of poor quality or literary merit.
Australian law offers copyright protection for 70
years after the author’s death.
Copyright can protect:
artistic works including photos, paintings, maps, craft
drama e.g. dance, plays
literary works and computer programs
videos and film
What does it cover?
All copyright issues in Australia come under federal law.
Australian Copyright Act was passed by Federal Parliament
Copyright Law Review Committee was set up in 1983 as an
2006 saw the Copyright Amendment Act passed.
Laws vary internationally, but Australia is party to treaties
which help provide protection for international works.
Changes to Copyright Act in 2000 were added to deal
with work in digital form.
Promote creativity of online technologies
Promote access to copyright works online
Provide certainty and access for users of online
Make sure educational institutions have access to
Up to date
According to the Australian Copyright Council there is no
charge for copyright protection in Australia.
It is free and automatic from the time the original work is
produced. Registration is not needed.
Copyright is administered by the Attorney General’s
Department in Australia.
Some websites offer protection of original works for
payment of a fee, but these sites have no authority or
capacity according to the Attorney General’s Department.
Place a notice of copyright on the work.
Keep a dated copy of all work created.
State clearly what access you want others to have of
Insist everything is in writing.
Pay detailed attention to any contracts.
Seek legal advice.
Protecting from copyright theft
The actual idea someone has is not covered by
copyright. Rather it is the expression of the idea in a
material form, documented in some way, that is
Therefore, If someone thinks of an idea for a logo, it is
not under copyright. They would need to have put
their initial idea down on paper.
Exhibiting art in a gallery is entering into a business
relationship/agreement for both artist and gallery.
Both parties need to be clear about exactly what
moral and economic rights each has.
The gallery would have the right to display the
artwork in an appropriate manner.
The artist would retain copyright.
Artists have an exclusive right to communicate their
work to the public.
Artworks in galleries
An employee creating graphic design works for a
company does not own the copyright of the creation
under Australian copyright law.
Freelance designers have different rights to those of
an employee in a company.
Terms would depend on the written agreement
The designer can license the work for use by the
company, while still retaining the copyright of the
The court will take into account any documents you
can produce to show ownership of the work, such as
date of creation, original working drawings and
written comments showing your ideas.
Supporting evidence can come from other people’s
statements, showing that they knew you were
working on that creation and/or they were also
working with you on that project.
Proof in court
With regard to reproducing artistic work:
There is nothing to be found in writing in the
Copyright Act about an amount that would infringe
It maybe similar to literary standards where it is less
than a substantial proportion reproduced.
If in dispute, an assessment of fair dealing may be
Can I use it?
On finding a suitable artwork you want to use from the
internet, look for the copyright details to ask permission
from the owner.
Visit the original page.
If the artist took the photo, approach the artist via website
If from a licensed site, you can buy a license to use the
artwork in certain agreed situations.
If an online gallery is showing the artwork, approach the
gallery via email and it may put you in touch with the
artist, who may give you a copyright release.
Where are they?
To find out more detail on copyright in Australia, the
following websites are helpful.