What is copyright?

"COPYRIGHT! - The short film" Federation University Australia in collaboration with GoTAFE is licensed CC BY ND.

What do you know about copyright? This humorous short film introduces you to copyright concepts. Look for copyright information as it applies to your compliance needs in the QUT Copyright Guide.

Copyright law is intended to provide a balance between rewarding creators for their works and ensuring reasonable access by users to those works. QUT is committed to the proper observance of copyright law, and upholding the rights of creators and users.

Original works and other subject matter are automatically given copyright protection in Australian law by the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).

Copyright applies regardless of whether the copyright symbol © is present. Works and other subject matter that are protected by copyright may include, for example, books, conference papers, web pages, computer programs, articles, scripts, sculptures, engravings, artworks, videos, and music recordings.

The Act gives protection to four categories of “works” – literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works – and four categories of “subject matter other than works” – cinematograph films, sound recordings, broadcasts, and published editions of works. It gives copyright owners several exclusive rights for a limited period of time. For example, the owner of copyright in a literary or dramatic work is the only person entitled to:

  • Reproduce the work in a material form, for example by photocopying or scanning
  • Publish the work
  • Recite or perform the work in public
  • Communicate the work to the public, for example by putting it online
  • Make a translation, a dramatised version, or a picturised version of the work.

The owner is usually the author or publisher of the work. The owner may give permission to others to do any of these things with the work.

There is a growing movement amongst some creative people to give users permission to do some of these things with their work right from the outset, at the time of publication. This movement is sometimes described as the ‘open access’ movement. Examples of this approach are the Creative Commons and the AEShareNet Free For Education licensing schemes. To learn more about them, visit their websites AEShareNet and Creative Commons.

For more information on the nature of copyright consult Copyright Guidelines for Copyright Protected Content (PDF, 50KB)