Direct Vs Indirect Copyright Infringement

Copyright is intended to protect the creator of original works and allow them to exploit their work through reproduction or distribution without others being allowed to copy their creative output. Copyright infringement can occur directly or indirectly. 

Table of Contents

Direct infringement occurs when a person, without your permission, uses or authorises any act comprised in your copyright.

This can occur through 3 fundamental ways.

  • Substantial reproduction of copyrighted material. For instance copying someone’s entire article onto your personal blog without permission.
  • Unconscious copying. Unfortunately, you can still directly infringe on copyright without intending to do so.
  • Authorising copyright infringement. This occurs through enabling others to infringe copyright. For instance, bulk reprinting of someone’s article without their permission.

A common example which many people may relate to is through torrenting and streaming content. The actual creator of the torrent who enables others to download is directly infringing on copyright. However, the individuals who are downloading the content from the torrent source are also infringing the author’s copyright. This is because when you download a torrent you are also uploading parts of the torrent for others to download. Consequently, authorising copyright infringement.

By contrast, indirect infringement occurs where a person deals with materials that infringe copyright, rather than copying the work themselves.

Using the example of someone else’s article, copying the article in the first instance would be direct infringement. However, selling the article would be an indirect infringement on copyright.

Indirect infringement can even occur if a venue is allowed to be used for an infringing public performance. This is important to note as changing the medium through which work is presented can still infringe on copyright.

A common misconception is that changing a work by 10% or more is sufficient to avoid infringing on copyright. This isn’t true and doing this can make you liable for infringement.

One important consideration to have is to use caution if it isn’t your own work. Consequently, if you do find work you wish to reproduce or copy that isn’t yours make sure to thoroughly read the licensing or permission terms. These can be confusing to understand so if you’re unsure, make sure to minimise your own risk and contact a copyright lawyer.

Another tip to avoid infringing on copyright is to seek an exception. One exception is fair use which can allow the use of a creative work if it’s for educational or non-commercial purposes.


To reiterate, direct copyright infringement involves the actual copying of work. Comparatively, indirect infringement involves dealing with an object which infringes on someone’s work.

To ensure you don’t fall victim to someone infringing on your copyright be sure to protect your work. One way to protect your intellectual property is by creating an intellectual property agreement.

Find the perfect lawyer to help your business today!

Get a fixed-fee quote from Australia's largest lawyer marketplace.

Most Popular Articles
You may also like
Recent Articles

Get the latest news

By clicking on 'Sign up to our newsletter' you are agreeing to the Lawpath Terms & Conditions


Register for our free live webinar today!

Tax Strategies for Small Business Success

12:00pm AEDT
Thursday 25th July 2024

By clicking on 'Register for webinar' you are agreeing to the Lawpath Terms & Conditions

You may also like

Want to become a virtual assistant but now sure what steps you need to take? This article dives into the requirements, skills and equipment you need to become a virtual assistant.
The 2024 Federal Budget has unveiled a comprehensive package of measures designed to support small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in Australia, while also laying the groundwork for a "Future Made in Australia."
Default interest clauses can help protect lenders' interests, but sometimes they will not be enforceable. Find out more here.

Thank you!

Your registration is confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox for an email with details on how to watch the webinar.