Overview

What does copyright protect?

Material protected by copyright is divided into two broad categories of subject matter: works and subject matter other than works. Copyright protection of works protects written material, artistic works, musical works, dramatic works, computer programs, compilations (these include anthologies, directories and databases). Copyright protection of subject matter other than works protects sound recording, cinematographic films, television and sound broadcasts and published editions of works. There are many other categories that are protected by copyright - more detailed information can be obtained through theAustralian Copyright Council.

How is copyright infringed?

An infringement of copyright occurs where an act comprised in the copyright is done in relation to a 'substantial part' of a work or other subject matter. Therefore, if you reproduce an image, sound or video in a presentation, copy material produced by another person, use copyrighted text in a document, or make an extra copy of a computer program, without obtaining permission from the copyright owner, you may be infringing copyright. Copyright may also be infringed where you communicate a work without permission. The exclusive nature of copyright enables the owner to take legal action to prevent others from exercising any of these rights and to be awarded damages in the event that an infringement occurs. Infringement can also incur criminal penalties against an individual and or an institution.

How long does copyright last?

Following is a table of categories of material and duration of copyright protection. Generally speaking, copyright lasts for life of the author, or creator, plus 70 years from the year in which the author or creator died.

Category of work Time covered Period

Publications eg books, journal articles (literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work)

If published anonymously first published before 1 January 1955

Copyright has expired

 

If Creator died before 1 January 1955

Copyright has expired

 

If published after 1 January 1955

Copyright expires at the end of 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the author of the work died

Music (and lyrics) published editions

If made after 1 January 1955

Copyright lasts for 25 years after the date of publication. It may still subsist even when the copyright in the music and lyrics have expired.

Photographs

If taken before 1 January 1955

Copyright has expired

 

If taken after 1 January 1955

Copyright expires at the end of 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the creator of the work died

Photographs made before May 1969

If taken before 1 January 1955

Copyright has expired

 

If made after 1 January 1955

Copyright expires at the end of 50 years after the year made.

Government publications

Federal: From May 2010 on

Australian Government agencies are required, wherever possible, to release copyright public sector information under Creative Commons by licence or other open content licences. (seeGovernment response to the Gov2.0 report)

 

Federal: Prior to May 2010

Copyright expires at the end of 70 years of first publication.

Permission for use needs to be sought from the author agency; there is not a central copyright clearance office. The Library can provide assistance where names of agencies have changed.

 

State and local

State and local government agencies are increasingly seeking to use Creative Commons licences, unless the works are under this licence copyright exists for 70 years.

Unpublished original material such as letters, manuscripts

 

Copyright does not expire.

What happens to material once the copyright has expired?

Material that is out of copyright is usually in the public domain. However, other copyright issues may apply, for example, if an out of copyright work has been published, there may be a new copyright period for the published version of that work.