If you are an artist, writer or business owner concerned about protecting copyright in your work, the answers to these frequently asked questions will provide you with some guidance as to how copyright law operates in Australia.
1. Do I need to register for copyright protection?
Under Australian law, there is no registration of copyright. Copyright protection is free and automatic from the time an original work is created.
2. Do I own copyright in my works?
A person who has created a work will usually own copyright in it. However, there are exceptions to the rule. The main one being that an employer owns the copyright in the work created by an employee during the course of his or her employment, unless the employment agreement specifies differently.
3. Who owns copyright in a collaborative work?
In collaborative productions, copyright can be jointly and equally owned by all participants. This means that no creator can deal with the work as if he/she were the sole creator of the work. This position can be altered by an agreement between the parties.
4. I have a good idea for a film or novel – how can I protect that idea?
There is no body of law that protects concepts or ideas in their own right. Copyright only protects the written expression of ideas. Someone can write your idea in their own words and it is unlikely to be a breach of any rights you have in the idea (other than in limited circumstances).
5. How can I protect the title of my song or book?
Copyright does not protect single words or short phrases because these are not considered “original” works capable of copyright protection. As such, two works can have the same title, as long as the content of works themselves is not copied.
6. Is my work protected overseas?
Australia is party to a number of international copyright treaties and conventions, pursuant to which copyright in material created by Australian residents and citizens is recognised in most overseas countries.
7. What can I do if someone is using my work without permission?
Infringement of copyright occurs when someone uses all, or a substantial part, of your work without permission and in a way which breaches your exclusive rights. If you believe your copyright has been infringed, you can contact the infringer explaining what you want them to do or send a letter of demand requesting that the infringing action cease. If the infringer does not respond to a letter of demand, legal proceedings can be commenced to enforce your rights.
If you are concerned that your copyright has been infringed, it is a good idea to get legal advice about how to resolve the matter.
8. Is it OK to copy or publish other people’s work if I don’t make any money out of it?
Except in specific circumstances, any copying or publication without the consent of the copyright owner is an infringement, even if the use is for a non-commercial purpose.
9. If a work is on the internet is it still protected by copyright?
Just because content is freely available on the internet, that does not make it free to use. Copyright laws apply to all materials on the internet.
10. How can I get permission to use a copyrighted work?
Only the copyright owner can give permission for their works to be reproduced, published, performed, communicated, broadcast or adapted. Although identifying and locating copyright owners can be difficult, you should always write to the copyright owner for their permission to use their work, explaining why you want to use their material in your work and how and where the work will be seen.
If you or someone you know wants more information on protecting their copyright or needs help or advice, please contact us on (03) 9592 3356 or email email@example.com.