Copyright law

Copyright in Australia is governed by the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act). This legislation gives the owner of copyright in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films and broadcasts exclusive rights to use those works.

The types of uses include the right to:

  • reproduce/copy a work
  • to publish
  • to perform in public
  • to communicate the work to the public via electronic means - including making it available online or sending via email.

This means that permission needs to be obtained from the owner of copyright before anyone can do any of these acts.

Copyright ownership

The creator or author of copyright material is the owner of that material, unless they have entered into an agreement to the contrary.

At the University there is a statute (Statute 8.2 Intellectual Property) governing ownership of copyright material created through the University. Under the policy students retain ownership of copyright in material they create in the course of their studies. Copyright material created by staff members during the course of their employment is owned by the University. There are also some specific situations where both staff and student work created through the University will be owned by the University.

For more information you can visit the copyright ownership web page or refer to the statute.

Copyright exceptions

Copyright law contains a number of exceptions to the rights of owners which ensures that the community has access to information and cultural material. These exceptions allow certain uses of material for educational purposes and certain personal uses including fair dealing.

Use of copyright material for educational purposes

The Act contains two statutory licences, which allow educational institutions to make limited use of copyright material for educational purposes without having to obtain permission from the owner.

These are Part VB, which covers the use of print and graphic material and Part VA, which covers television and radio broadcasts. The universities pay the collecting societies Copyright Agency Ltd (CAL) and Screenrights for the use of these licences. The collecting societies conduct regular surveys of copying and communication undertaken by educational institutions under these licences.

A number of Australian universities have entered a commercial music licence agreement with the music collecting societies APRA AMCOS,  PPCA and ARIA, which allows certain limited use of sound recordings for educational purposes.

In addition to the rights available in the Act to make certain uses without obtaining permission, educational institutions often enter commercial agreements with copyright owners to use certain material. Most university libraries subscribe to a wide range of online databases containing text and image material, which means they have the permission of copyright owners to use that material under the terms of the licence agreements.

For more information about copyright see: