Implied Copyright: A Guide For Business Owners (2024 Update)

Ah, the famous © symbol. We see it everywhere – on websites, books, music and even magazines. What the © symbol represents is important, but it’s also not something that needs to be legally registered (or paid for). By contrast, you can register your trademark, which the ® symbol indicates. In this article we’ll discuss how implied copyright works and how to protect your intellectual property.

Why is the © symbol still used?

The copyright symbol does have a legal connotation, but it does not have to be legally registered in Australia. This is a different story in the United States, where copyright can be registered. This means that copyright is implied in Australia, even where there is no © symbol.

However, once copyright is implied in Australia you won’t have to register overseas. Copyright will exist in other countries by virtue of international treaties that Australia is party to.

What doesn’t copyright protect?

Copyright does not attach to ideas that are not expressed, i.e. tangible. Under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) for a work to have copyright, it must be expressed in material form.


You’ve just come up with an ingenious idea for your new website including the layout, text and design. You mention this to your friend who then makes their own website using all your ideas.

Because your idea was just that – an idea – you don’t have any legal rights. For copyright to exist, your idea would have had to be on your website, in material form.

What is ‘material form’?

Essentially, material form is the medium that you use to present and express your ideas to the public. The common types of mediums that copyright attaches to are:

  • Musical Works (including songs)
  • Artistic Works (including paintings and sculptures)
  • Broadcasts (TV and radio)
  • Literary Works (including books and websites)
  • Newspapers
  • Computer Programs

If you think copyright is only important for creatives or those of us that want to play music in the park, this isn’t necessarily the case. Copyright protects all types of things, and it’s prudent to be aware of this as a business owner.

Implied copyright for business owners

As a business owner, there are many instances where you may run into issues relating to copyright. Some of these include:

  • Protecting the written and displayed content on your site
  • If you use someone else’s content online
  • Using music in your advertisements that may have copyright protection
  • Codes used on your website will attract copyright protection

Enforcing copyright

Because copyright automatically comes into effect when you express something, the best thing you can do is put your ideas in material form. It’s also wise to have a copyright notice on your website and other material you want to protect. For example, our website has the following notice:

‘Copyright 2019 Lawpath’

Having a notice on your site will inform your users that you’re serious about protecting your intellectual property. All you need to write in is the word ‘Copyright’, the year, and who you intend to own the copyright.

Further, your terms of use can also have a clause which prohibits users from infringing the content on your website. If you have more questions about copyright and protecting your ideas, it’s worth consulting a copyright lawyer for further advice.

Don’t know where to start? Contact us on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest lawyer marketplace.

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