What is Copyright?
Copyright provides a legal right in the copyright owner to prevent others from doing certain things such as copying and plagiarising the copyright owner’s works without permission from the copyright owner.
If you copy a “substantial part” of someone else’s material, you will need to either get permission from the copyright owner or rely on a copyright exception, such as might apply with Statutory Education Licenses.
A “substantial part” is a question of quality, not quantity. For example, even if you copy less than 10% of the pages of a book, if those pages contain the more important, essential or distinctive parts of the copyrighted works, such copying may still be viewed as a substantial part.
Common examples of material or “works” that can be protected through copyright include: designs, music, art, books and films - to name a few.
Unlike some other types of IP that require registration, copyright is automatic and exists the moment you express your idea in material form, such as, creating a painting.
Copyright is an intangible right (as opposed to a physical or tangible property right). For example, while a painting has a physical or tangible element - you can see the painting and touch the painting, the copyright in the painting and the artist's rights associated with it are intangible forms of property.
Copyright does not exist in an idea per se. Rather, copyright subsists in, and protects expressions of ideas. For example, just because you might come up with the idea that a house should contain four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a verandah, does not mean you have copyright in that idea. However, if an architect designed plans for a house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a verandah, the architect would own the copyright in the plans incorporating the architect’s design.
What We Do
Greyson Legal | IP Lawyers are experienced in copyright law. Our copyright legal services include:
assist with copyright infringement
drafting commercial agreements relating to ownership and use of copyright works
copyright assignment agreements
franchising and copyright advice
In Australia, the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) provides the statutory framework for protection.
Under the Act, the works must be:
in a material form (eg. in writing, like a book or by way of a painting, etc); and
a new creation (ie. be original – not copied).
International Copyright and Treaties
Australia is a party to a number of international treaties dealing with copyright. For example, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
Australia also has bilateral treaties in relation to copyright with other countries, such as, New Zealand.
Many countries grant minimum standards of copyright protection for Australian material (such as books and music) under these international treaties.
Copyright in the Education Sector
There are provisions within the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) that permit teachers and educators to reproduce copyright material for educational purposes without a copyright clearance under what is called a Statutory Education Licence.
Under the Licence, an educational institution is required to pay fair compensation through licence fees for use of copyright material.
See the video from the Copyright Agency for more details about Statutory Education Licenses.
Term of Copyright
In Australia, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator, or 70 years from the end of the year the material was first made public.
Individual creators of material also have what is known as “moral rights”.
These include the:
right to be attributed as the creator of the work;
right to take action if their work is falsely attributed as being someone else’s work;
right to take action if their work is altered in a way that is detrimental to their reputation.
Employees and Copyright
Generally, the initial person to create the relevant work is the copyright owner.
However, there are exceptions. For example, in an employer/employee relationship where the works created by the employee is part of their job, then the copyright in the works would normally be owned by the employer.
Well drafted Employment Agreements will contain terms and conditions which deal with intellectual property rights in an employer-employee context.
A Copyright Notice is an internationally recognised identifier that a particular work is protected by copyright.
For example, a simple copyright notice might look like this:
© XYZ Pty Ltd 2021
A copyright notice may be placed on the work, however, it is not necessary for copyright protection.