Copyright Overview

Copyright is a set of exclusive rights given to authors or creators of works, or copyright owners to protect their works against unauthorised use.

Copyright protects the expression of ideas in a material form; it does not protect ideas, concepts, styles, techniques or information. Copyright in Australia is governed by the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). International treaties also apply.

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  • What copyright applies to

  • Ownership of copyright

  • Rights of copyright owners

  • Duration of copyright

  • Moral rights

    Moral rights are personal legal rights belonging to creators of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works and cinematograph films.

    In Australia, moral rights are automatic upon creation of the work. These rights are:

    The Right of attribution of authorship:

    • Creators have the right to be attributed when the work is reproduced, published, exhibited in public, communicated or adapted.
    • If a creator has not stated the way in which he or she wishes to be identified, any “clear and reasonably prominent” form of identification may be used.

    The Right not to have authorship of a work falsely attributed:

    • You must not credit the wrong person as being the creator of a work; nor credit the creator of a work that has been altered without acknowledging the alterations.
    • It is also an infringement to knowingly deal with or communicate a falsely attributed work.

    The Right of integrity:

    • A work may not be used in a derogatory way that could affect the creator's standing or reputation, e.g. distorting, mutilating or materially altering the work in a way that prejudices the creator’s honour or reputation.
    • Simply altering a work, or treating it in a way the creator is not happy with, will not necessarily infringe the creator’s moral rights.

    It is not an infringement of moral rights if the creator has given consent or if your failure to attribute or your derogatory treatment of the work was reasonable in the circumstances.

    Unlike the copyright in the work moral rights cannot be transferred or sold by the creator to a third party.

    Moral rights last for the same term as copyright, generally 70 years after the death of the creator, aside from the right of integrity for cinematograph films which expires on the creator’s death.

    For more information, please refer to the Australian Copyright Council’s website for their information sheet on Moral Rights.