Introduction to Copyright

Intellectual property is a hot topic today, especially in the age of information. One part of intellectual property is Copyright. Generally copyright recognises that the creator of an original piece of work has legal rights to that work. These rights include the right to sell the right in the work and the right to reproduce the work.

Copyright law is set out in the Copyright Act 1968 (Commonwealth), which applies throughout Australia. In Australia, Copyright protection is automatic and applies when the work is first written down or recorded in some way. Some people fix a copyright notice (“©” ) to the work to declare their interest in the work however generally this does not need to be done.

The general rule is that the author of the work is the owner of the copyright, however there are several other exceptions to this including work done by employees, film and sound recordings where there are numerous contributors, or work done by State, Territory, or Federal Government.

Copyright generally lasts for the life of the relevant creator, plus 70 years. As copyright has evolved over a period of time and legislation in has changed as well, the lifespan of copyright may change depending on when the work was first created or published.

Once copyright protection has expired over a work, it becomes public domain and may be freely used by anyone.

In general, copyright protects:

  • Literary Works, including articles, novels, poems, song lyrics, scripts, or computer programs
  • Artistic Works, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, architectural plans, and photographs
  • Dramatic Works, including choreography, screenplays, and plays
  • Films and sound recordings

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, styles, techniques, or information. Copyright does not protect names, titles or slogans.