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How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

Australian creators are fortunate to enjoy the protection of a robust copyright system. Materials produced within Australia receive automatic protection that can be used to prevent others from copying your works.

Copyright can hold significant value, especially where a work is used for commercial purposes. This makes copyright infringement a serious matter for anyone that uses, reproduces or licences copyrighted material.

Copyright infringement is a common occurrence that has been complicated by the spread of the internet. Learning how to avoid copyright infringement is an important part of doing business, and in this article we’ll discuss the steps you can take to navigate the issue.

 

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects the original expression of information and ideas in certain forms.

These forms include written word, images, music and video. The holder of a copyright has the exclusive right to distribute, display, copy and licence their work.

Importantly, copyright does not protect the ideas or information itself. Instead, copyright only protects the expression of the idea.

For example, the author of a novel has a copyright on the text contained within the book, but the copyright generally does not extend to the plot, themes or structure of the story.

Unlike other intellectual property, copyright is automatically conveyed in Australia as soon as an idea is expressed physically or electronically.

There is no requirement to register your work in order to receive the copyright. This is provided under the Copyright Act 1968.

The duration of copyright depends on the type of work produced and whether it was made public in the creator’s lifetime. Generally speaking, copyright for published works lasts for the lifetime of the author, plus another 70 years.

For unpublished works where the creator is unknown, copyright lasts for 70 years from the date the work was created.

 

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs where copyrighted material is used without permission from the copyright holder, or if it’s used in a way that is disallowed under the Copyright Act.

This applies to situations where an entire work is used, but it also applies when a “substantial part” of the work is used.

The Act does not define what constitutes a “substantial” part of a work. In most cases, the Court considers the quality of the work that was copied, and not simply the quantity.

For instance, it may be an infringement to copy the chorus of a song (its most recognisable part), even though there are many other verses.

The Copyright Act provides both civil and criminal remedies for copyright infringement, including fines and imprisonment


How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

There are many things you can do to avoid copyright infringement in Australia, including:

1. Familiarise yourself with copyright laws in Australia. There are certain circumstances where it’s acceptable to use copyrighted material, even for commercial purposes, and it’s important to know the difference.

2. Use works that are in the Public Domain. Works in the Public Domain are not protected by copyright. These can be used freely by anyone for personal and commercial purposes. This applies to works where the copyright has expired, been waived by the creator, or forfeited.

3. Use works under Fair Use provisions. Fair use (also called fair dealing) allows you to use a copyrighted work for “fair” purposes, such as research and study, critique, parody or reporting the news.

4. Licence works from the creator. Copyright holders have the right to licence their works to others. You can use a licensed work for any purpose that the creator allows – this is common practice for things such as stock imagery.

5. Use works under Creative Commons licences. Creative Commons is an American organisation that allows creators to retain their copyright while providing their works for free use in certain circumstances, such as educational or personal use. Creative Commons allows participating works to be used in Australia.

6. Give proper attribution to the creator. Fair use and Creative Commons provisions all require that you properly attribute the copyright holder when using their work. Failing to attribute the creator may be considered when copyrighted works can be used, negotiate licensing agreements, manage licences and copyright, and protect you from infringing the copyrights of others.

 

Protect Your IP with the Attorneys at KINGS!

The automatic copyright protection provided in Australia is an excellent tool for any individuals or businesses that are involved in creating original works.

Australian copyright is robust and it may allow you to act if another party infringes on your right. Protecting original works, inventions, branding and ideas becomes much simpler with the help of the experienced attorneys at KINGS.

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