What does copyright mean?

Copyright law applies to forms of expression or content such as text, images and music.

People who create and invest in such content, such as writers, artists, photographers, can manage how others use that work. This means that people who create content that others find valuable, and lack the skill or time to produce for themselves, can gain reward for their work.

Copyright owners have exclusive rights to use their ‘work’ in certain ways: e.g. to reproduce it or make it available online. People who want to use other people’s ‘work’ therefore have to get permission (a licence) from the copyright owner.

Copyright is automatically applied as soon as the content is created and ‘fixed’ in some way (e.g. drawn, written, typed, recorded, saved).

You do not need to ‘register’ your work or submit to any other process

This applies to Australia and many other countries.

Copyright applies to the following:

  • text (e.g. books, articles, reports, websites)
  • images (e.g. photos, artistic works, graphs)
  • video and moving images (e.g. films, videos, tv commercials,)
  • audio recordings (e.g. music, radio programs, podcasts)
  • computer programs

Usually, if you want to copy or share someone else’s work, you will need to seek permission (a license) from the copyright owner unless:

  • the copyright has expired – Usually, copyright of text, images and music lasts for 70 years after the year of the creator’s death.
  • a special exception or statutory license (e.g. for educational use) applies.

This information is not legal advice, it is for your guidance only.

Copyright does not protect ideas, styles, concepts or techniques.

For instance, you may have an idea for a TV Show or a book, but copyright will not protect it, but it will protect a script for the TV show or even a film storyboard.

In Australia, copyright protection is automatic.

There is no need for copyright registration nor is there a legal requirement to publish the work or to put a copyright notice on it.

A work will be protected as soon as it is put into material form, such as being written down or recorded in some way (filmed or recorded on an audio tape).