Intellectual Property Law


Copyright is the rights to certain creative works such as text, artistic works, music, computer programs, sound recordings and films. Copyrights provide exclusivity to control the use of creative work.

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Copyright Lawyers Melbourne and Essendon

Copyright is the rights to certain creative works such as text, artistic works, music, computer programs, sound recordings and films. Copyrights provide exclusivity to control the use of creative work. It is granted exclusively to the copyright owner to reproduce, to perform or to display the work to the public . In Australia, copyright law is governed by the Commonwealth Copyright Act 1968 (Copyright Act).

Copyright owners have a right to prevent others from reproducing or communicating their work without their permission to others, though the copyright owners may sell these rights to someone else. Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, styles, or techniques such an idea for a film or book, but it will protect a script for the film or even a storyboard for the film. 

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What types of creative work are protected by Copyright?

In Australia, for a creative work to be protected by copyright, it must be in material form i.e., electronic, or hard copy, and have a sufficient connection to Australia. The types of creative work protected by copyright include novels, drawings, illustrations, engravings, blueprints, maps, musical scores, radio and TV broadcasts, photographs, graphic design (including digital files and audio recordings) and house plans. The protection of copyright includes exclusive economic rights, for a limited time to deal with their creative works. Copyright in artistic works lasts 70 years from the date of its first publication, 50 years for radio and television broadcasts and 25 years for published editions.

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What are the rights a copyright holder enjoys in relation to the copyright work?

A copyright holder enjoys the following rights on the copyright work:

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Does copyright protect the ideas and innovations recorded in the copyright work?

Copyright only protects the way that you express your ideas. It does not protect ideas and innovations recorded in the copyright work. Same ideas expressed in a different way, with varying words, does not constitute the infringement of the first copyright.

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Can I freely copy the work from internet, or the internet work too is covered under a copyright?

Work on internet is also covered under copyright. Therefore, such work cannot be copied without the permission of the holder of the copyright on that work. If the work on the internet is open source or has a Creative Commons licence, the work can be copied without permission, provided you comply with the conditions imposed by the copyright holder.

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What is a copyright licence?

A copyright is an intangible right of property. It can be divided and distributed in any number of ways among the right holders, including by territory or format. There can be more than one party who holds an interest in the copyright work, all such interests are managed through licences. The granting of a copyright licence is distinguished from an assignment of copyright. The assignment of copyright is the complete transfer or sale of rights to a third party.

In a copyright licence, the copyright holder, or their agent grants the party a license for some or all of all of its rights to use copyright material exclusively or non-exclusively, for a particular purpose. Such as, a novelist may exclusively licence the right to print, publish and sell their book to a publishing house. The publishing agreement can facilitate how different rights are licensed. Such as the novelist may also give their publisher certain subsidiary rights, including the right to licence the manuscript to a translator or to another publisher dealing in audiobooks. The novelist may decide to reserve their dramatisation rights, which allows them to negotiate independently with a producer for the licensing of film rights. To make a film, the producer would receive the right to produce and distribute the film adaptation, and often the exclusive right to create and distribute merchandise.

Under some agreements, a licensee may be empowered to enter new contracts with sub-licensees or take legal action for copyright infringement by third parties. The income payable to the author for use of their work under licence would be managed through a publishing agreement.

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Who is the owner of a copyright?

The owner of a copyright is the original creator of a copyrightable work. Copyright can be sold, shared, licensed to or unless contracted away to someone else. Copyright could be owned by multiple people equally in case of the work is collaborative or as stated in the contract with other parties. If someone requested to reproduce or reuse the copyrightable work, the approval of reproduction of work is requested from each copyright owner of the work. The copyright owner can delegate the responsibility to manage the copyright ownership on her or his behalf.

If you create a copyrightable work under a contract of employment, the employer is likely the owner of the copyright in the work.

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What is the difference between an author and a copyright owner?

A copyright owner is the person or company which owns the rights in a work or other subject-matter while an author is the person who creates a copyright work. In most of the instances the author of a work is the owner of the copyright unless the copyright works are made by an employee during their employment. In that instance the copyright vests with the employer. The ownership of copyright may vary under an agreement where the author agrees to assign his or her copyright in a work to someone else.

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How do I register a copyright in Australia?

There is no need for copyright registration in Australia to protect the work, the copyrightable work is automatically protected as soon as it is put into material form or created. Copyright rights come into existence as soon as someone creates something by writing down a story; typing up a poem; shooting film footage; recording music; and taking a photo. Copyright protection is free, there are no procedures to follow or fees to pay.

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How long does copyright last for in Australia?

It depends on type of copyright work for how long the copyright lasts for in Australia. This can range from 25 years to 70 years depending on the medium of work such as published, broadcast or artistic work.

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Can I use other’s copyright work without their permission?

You are not allowed to copyright the work of someone else, even minutely. Even minor use could amount to an infringement, such as a paragraph of book, or reproducing a section of musical riff.

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How do I prove ownership of copyright since there is no system of registration of a copyright work?

If there is a dispute, of ownership of a copyright work which comes before a court, the court takes into account the evidence of the original person who created the work, persons who knew about the creation of the work and who were involved in it. The date of publication or manufacture appearing on the labelling or packaging of copies of copyright materials and the statements of the ownership of copyright are treated in court as accurate evidence, unless the person disputing those issues can point to something raising a question about their accuracy. Documents recording the passing of copyright from the original owner to the person claiming present ownership will be similarly treated as evidence unless there is something to question the accuracy of that.

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What are moral rights?

Moral rights are separate and additional set of rights in the Australian copyright law given to the creators and performers of the copyright work. Moral rights give the right:

Moral rights should always be considered if someone is re-using and altering works (for example, through editing, cropping, or colourising). Moral rights generally last until the copyright in the work expires. The performers or creators can provide written consents to acts that would otherwise infringe their moral rights. Moral rights cannot be transferred or waived. There are defences to moral rights infringement where the infringing act is reasonable in all the circumstances.

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When does a copyright infringement occur?

An infringement of copyright work occurs whenever another person makes copies or exploits a copyright work commercially without the permission of the owner of the copyright work. Creating a remarkably similar work independently does not constitute infringement. The reproduction of the copyright work must be “substantially similar” for infringement to occur and the subsequent work must be copied from the first work.

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Can I avoid the infringement of copyright work by making enough changes to a copyright work?

You cannot avoid copyright infringement by making changes to a copyright work. If you want to use something from the work created by someone else, you need a permission to use as it is or with a change to the copyright work even in a very small portion on your website, or in a brochure, or even for purely personal purposes.

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When and how can I use the © symbol?

Only the owner of copyright can use the © symbol in a way given as follows:

© [followed by the owner’s name] [followed by the year in which the copyright work was created], for example
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