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The basic principle: To balance the copyright owner's need to make a living from their work against the need for others to access that work for particular purposes.

What does copyright apply to?

Copyright applies to original material in both hardcopy and electronic form.

Copyright applies to:

  • written materials, such as articles, novels, screenplays, poems, lyrics and reports
  • artistic works, such as paintings, drawings, cartoons, sculpture, craft work, photographs, maps and plans
  • musical works
  • dramatic works, such as dance, plays and mime
  • computer programs
  • compilations, such as anthologies, directories and databases cinematographic films
  • sound recordings
  • broadcasts
  • published editions
  • performers

(Source: Australian Copyright Council: An introduction to copyright in Australia)

It doesn't apply to:

  • ideas
  • concepts
  • styles
  • techniques
  • information

Creators/artists/composers/writers now also control the right to communicate their work. This means they can therefore control the scanning, downloading or emailing of their works in the same way as they can control photocopying.

Who owns copyright?

General rule: creator/artist/composer/writer is the first owner. Exceptions: employees,commissioned works, government.
Exceptions need to be in writing. Agreement to the contrary can vary either the general rule or the exceptions.

How long does copyright last?

In Australia, from the time a work appears in material form until the life of the creator plus 70 years. In other countries, the duration of copyright varies so advise may be needed to determine whether copyright material is still protected.

Where can I find more information on copyright?

Further information can be obtained from the latest An introduction to copyright in Australia information sheet, available from the Australian Copyright Council website