What is copyright?
Copyright is a form of intellectual property which is essentially a bundle of rights, relating to the product of a person’s skill or labour which gives the owner the right to copy, publish, communicate (e.g. broadcast or make available online) and publicly perform the copyright material. Practically speaking, you can have copyright in the text of a book (known as a literary work). This gives you the exclusive rights to reproduce the work in a material form, publish it, perform it in pubic, post it online and make an adaption (or translation of it).
However, copyright is an intangible right – it has no physical substance. It does not relate to the right to physically own the book itself which is something separate.
What does it take to own copyright in a work?
The work (that is written work or artwork) must be:
- in material form (written down or recorded);
- be sufficiently original (not copied!); and
- the creator must be a qualified person (have a connection with Australia or a country Australia has a copyright treaty with).
When is okay to take something from the internet and use it on social media or in your own work?
This may come as surprise, but almost never. The default rule is that you need to obtain the copyright owner’s permission. There is vast amount of unauthorised copying on the internet (e.g. sharing photos on Facebook/ Pinterest/ Instagram) however unless the work is in the public domain (not covered by copyright), you may not have permission to copy it, even if you credit there the author.
What does copyright cover?
Copyright covers literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, sound recordings, computer software, and architecture.
How long does copyright last?
In Australia, the duration copyright depends on the type of material however generally, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the author. It used to be 50 years from the death of the author. There are separate rules depending on the type of work in question so this needs to be checked carefully.
How do you register or copyright you work to protect it?
In Australia, copyright protection is automatic provided that the creator and the work meet the criteria set out above. So there no need to register the work in Australia. However, registration is available in some other countries particularly in the United States.
How do you protect you work if someone is copying it?
You do need to be vigilant about protecting your copyright. If someone copies your work without your permission, it is recommended you seek legal advice. Call us to discuss you matter. For more information, CLICK HERE to find out about Intellectual Property (IP) Litigation.
How much of a copyright work can you copy for free?
Many people think you can use a certain percentage of a copyright work without it being an infringement. This is not true. Generally, you cannot use copyright material without the copyright owner’s permission.
What are the tests for copyright infringement?
There is no such thing as the ten percent rule or any other percentage for that matter. Just because you change a copyright work by ten percent or by three points won’t mean you have not infringed someone else’s work. The real test under the law is whether you have taken a “substantial part” of it without the owner’s consent. Is the part taken a recognisable, essential part of the whole original work? Over the years, Australian courts have interpreted the test to be one of quality over quantity. This can be a hard test to apply and sometimes even the courts get it wrong the first time and the case has a different result on appeal.
If I am copied shall I contact the other side?
It’s important to get legal advice if you think your copyright has been infringed before making any claims that others.
If you have no legal merits for the claim, then it can be characterised as a “groundless threat” and you could be sued. The laws are there to prevent the other side suffering from damage for example a false claim is made and they make changes to their business that loses them money.
What are the exemptions to infringement of copyright law?
The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) includes “fair dealing” provisions which allows the copy a reasonable proportion of the copyright material for research or study, criticism or review parody or satire and reporting news and some other specific purposes. The defences are very specific so it is best to get legal advice before seeking to rely on them.
What compensation can you get if someone copies your work?
The remedies available for an infringement of copyright are an injunction (to stop someone from using the copyright material) and either damages or an account of profits (both being a sum of money). The court may also award additional damages as it considers appropriate in the circumstances. For example, if you warn a person that they are infringing your copyright and they keep doing it or if they copy your work on a large scale. Alternatively, you may settle the matter out of court with the other party which basically happens if your lawyer negotiates a resolution to a dispute without having to go through the court process.
What can lawyers do?
Copyright law sounds simple in theory: the basic premise of it is do not copy. However, given the various legal tests for what is protected by copyright law, who owns it and what can amount to an infringement, it is important to seek legal advice early.
If you have any further questions about this topic, please give us a call on Tel: 03 9527 1334 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org