A user guide to copyright in Australia

Copyright is an extremely valuable intangible asset for your business. If managed properly, it can generate a lot of value for your business. LawPath has compiled a brief guide to copyright to help you understand the best way to manage and commercialise your asset.

For assistance with copyright, get in contact with a copyright lawyer through LawPath’s lawyer directory.

What is copyright?

Whilst copyright is a commonplace term, what it actually entails is a bit tricky to understand. Copyright is an intangible form of property: it is a bundle exclusive economic rights to do certain things with copyright subject-matter. These rights include the:

  • Right to copy
  • Right to publish
  • Right to communicate
  • Right to publicly perform

How can I protect my copyright?

Copyright protection is automatic and no registration is required. Original work receives copyright protection as soon as it is created.

There are limits to when copyright subsists.

  • It subsists in an unpublished literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work if the author was a ‘qualified person’ at the time the work was created. A ‘qualified person’ is an Australia citizen or a body corporate under Australian law.
  • Copyright subsists in published work if it was first published in Australia and the author was a ‘qualified person’ at the time of publishing.

What does copyright protect?

Copyright subsists in several types of works. Specifically, it attaches to literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works. Copyright only protects the expression of an idea, not the underlying idea itself.

Who is the owner of the copyright?

The author of the work is generally the owner of copyright. This changes when a work is created under an employment agreement. In this situation, the employer owns the copyright in the work. The author will retain their moral rights in the work which include:

  • The right of integrity;
  • The right of attribution; and
  • The right to not be falsely attributed.

When does infringement occur?

Infringement occurs when a person does, or authorises the doing of, one of the exclusive rights conferred by copyright. The infringing act must be done to the whole or substantial part of the work. It is a defence to infringement if the alleged infringing act was done with the owner’s permission.

Example: if I wrote a book, I would have the exclusive right to publish that book. Anyone who published that book without my permission, would be in breach of my copyright.

Conclusion

This guide to copyright is a good starting place to understand the value it could create for your business. If you need advice about protecting your copyright, get in contact with a copyright lawyer through LawPath’s lawyer directory. They will be able to advise you about how best to commercialise your copyright and resolve disputes if your copyright has been infringed.

Need more help? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest legal marketplace or to get answers to your legal questions.

Ashlee Johnson

Ashlee is a legal intern working in the content team at LawPath. She is keenly interested in information technology law, and all things innovation. Ashlee is currently completing a Dual Degree of Law/Commerce at the University of New South Wales.