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What is Implied Copyright?: A Guide for Business Owners

What is Implied Copyright?: A Guide for Business Owners

Learn about implied copyright in Australia and understand how copyright can protect your business' intellectual property.

28th January 2016

If you’ve ever scrolled the internet, read a magazine or even downloaded a song off itunes you’ll notice the copyright sign ‘©’ on almost every occasion. Unlike other forms of Intellectual Property (IP) such as trademarks and patents, there is no requirement to register your copyright. Yes this means that the little © that you see everywhere is essentially useless.

Now you are aware of this it is time to realise that placing a © on your Instagram bio is simultaneously pretentious and purposeless. But this is good news for those wishing to protect their copyright as it removes the complexities of the registration process and has the added bonus of being free of charge.

Why Is the © Symbol Still Used?

The myth that copyright needs to be registered and awarded the illustrious © symbol comes from the USA. The USA is a jurisdiction that offers a registration process for copyright protection. However, once copyright is implied in Australia there is no requirement to register in foreign countries. Copyright will exist in other countries by virtue of international treaties that Australia is a party to.

What Doesn’t Copyright Protect?

One of the essential things for business owners to comprehend is that copyright does not attach to ideas that are unexpressed. Under the Copyright Act 1968 for a work to have copyright it must be expressed in material form. For example if you have a great idea for your business’ website including the layout, the text and the overall appearance and communicate this idea to your best friend and she goes ahead and uses all that information to create her own website, not only do you need to reconsider your friendship you will have no copyright in that information. Therefore, commit to your idea and convey it in material form before spruiking it to your friends.

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 and;
  • Computer Programs.

What Does Copyright Protect?

If you think copyright is only important for creatives or those of us that downloaded Dallas Buyers Club, think again. The idea that copyright is irrelevant to business owners is another myth that has been falsely perpetuated.

It is vital for business owners to understand how copyright works in order to protect their intellectual property and understand when it is not ok to use someone else’s content. Most importantly for business owners, copyright can attach to the content on your website. This can range from protection of your homepage to the terms and conditions (Ts&Cs) that you use on your website. Therefore, it is vital for business owners to consider tailoring their own Ts&Cs rather than simply copy and pasting another website’s Ts&Cs. For more information on Ts&Cs consult LawPath’s guide on how to create website Ts&Cs.

Although copyright is implied when you express it in a material form the exact ins and outs of copyright protection are complex. Before, starting a claim in infringement or if someone has accused you of copyright infringement consult LawPath and we can connect you to a practicing IP attorney and tailor advice specific to your needs.

Disclaimer: All the Information Above is Copyright © of LawPath©.

Still unsure if you have copyright protection? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to get fixed price quotes to get advice from an experienced lawyer specific to your needs.

Matthew Jessup
Matthew Jessup

Matthew is paralegal at Lawpath and is completing his final year of a bachelor of Laws combined with Political Science at Macquarie University. With a keen interest in IP law, Matthew helps startups understand the ins and outs of trademark registration, protection and enforcement.