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What is copyright … and what does it cover?

Copyright is an automatic legal protection for creators of “original works of authorship” and allows them to control how their work is used or exploited.  Copyright can include original literary, artistic, musical, and dramatic works, as well as films, sound recordings, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, architectural drawings and broadcasts.

Copyright does NOT apply to anything that is not unique or materials that do NOT represents significant authorship – such as ideas, processes, procedures, names, slogans, symbols.  These may be covered by other types of intellectual property protection.

How to claim copyright?

Copyright protection is free and automatic from the time a work is first written down or recorded in some way. You do NOT need to apply for copyright in Australia and there is no system of registration. There are no forms to fill in or fees to be paid.  You do not need to publish your work or do anything else.

It is NOT necessary to put a copyright notice on a piece of work, but it can be a useful reminder to others that the work is protected by copyright.  You can do this using the symbol ©, followed by the name of the copyright owner and the year of first publication.  For sound recordings, the letter ‘P’ (for phonogram) in a circle or in brackets is used instead of the ‘C’ in a circle.

How long does it last?

Generally copyright protection lasts for 70 years after the death of the author, but this can differ depending on the type of copyright material and if it has been made public.  On expiration, the material is deemed to be in the public domain and can be freely used.


Under the Copyright Act there are over 90 exceptions. This enables some use of copyright material without the permission of the copyright owner in certain circumstances.  The most commonly used are the fair dealing exceptions which permit the use of copyright material for certain purposes e.g. research or study, reporting of news, and criticism or reviews. Other exceptions cover activities like reading aloud, taking photographs of public statues, or technical reproductions.  You can find a complete list on the Australian Copyright Council’s website

 Need more help?  Contact INNOVIC on or (03) 8060 3504.

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