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How to Copyright Artwork in Australia

Artists in Australia enjoy one of the world’s most robust copyright systems. If you create original artwork, you typically have the exclusive right to use, publish, reproduce and distribute your works.

While Australia’s copyright legislation provides excellent protection, navigating the system and managing your claims can be challenging.

Depending on your needs, you may also need other forms of intellectual property to keep your artworks and ideas secure.

In this article we will discuss how to copyright artwork in Australia, and whether your works require other forms of protection.



Copyrights for Artistic Works in Australia

Australia’s copyright regulations provide protection for a wide range of “artistic works.”

This includes:

  • Paintings, drawings and sketches
  • Photographs
  • Sculptures
  • Engravings
  • Maps and models
  • Plans and blueprints

These works are eligible for copyright protection, regardless of the artistic quality of the work.

The Copyright Act further extends protection to “works of artistic craftsmanship” that don’t fall into the above categories.

These works must satisfy an additional aesthetic appeal criteria, and they must be the work of a skilled craftsperson. This includes items such as handmade tapestries, jewellery and furniture.



How to Copyright Artwork in Australia

Artwork receives automatic copyright protection in Australia the moment it is put into material form. You do not need to register or publish your artwork to receive copyright.

However, it is common for copyrighted works to bear a copyright symbol or notice. The copyright symbol (©) is placed in a prominent position on the artwork, along with the year the artwork was created. An artwork may also include a written copyright notice.

There is no set form of written notice, but it should state:

This work is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process, nor may any other exclusive right be exercised, without the permission of [the copyright owner, the year of copyright].

Copyright protects both physical and electronic artworks. Electronic works can be further protected with digital rights management (DRM) information.

There is no requirement to attach a copyright notice to an artwork. But attaching a copyright mark or written notice is advisable, as it lets other people know that the copyright is actively maintained.



Your Legal Rights As the Copyright Owner

As the copyright owner for an artwork, you are granted the exclusive right to use your artwork. Other parties require your permission to:

  • Reproduce your artwork (e.g. by scanning or photographing it)
  • Publish your artwork in print format
  • Sell copies of your artwork in print format
  • Distribute your artwork through the internet
  • You also receive moral rights, including:
  • The right to be properly credited as the creator of the artwork
  • Protection against your artwork being attributed to someone else
  • Protection against disrespectful treatment of your artwork

Seek legal advice if you think your copyright has been infringed. You will need professional support to enforce your copyright and prevent others from copying, selling or distributing your artwork without permission.


Are Logos Protected by Copyright in Australia?

Yes, logos and other artistic branding elements are protected by Australia’s copyright laws.

However, copyright only protects the original expression of an artwork, not the ideas behind the artwork. This means a business cannot rely on copyright alone to protect logos and other recognisable symbols.

A business’ logo often holds significant value in the form of customer recognition and brand equity. If your logo is unlawfully copied by a competitor, this can dilute your brand and harm your reputation, which may have significant financial implications.

While your copyright prevents others from copying or distributing your logo without permission, you cannot use copyright to recover financial damage to your brand. For this, your logos and recognisable branding need to be trade marked.

A trade mark is a form of intellectual property that protects your business’ unique branding, products and services. Registering your logo as a trade mark grants you the right to deter others from using your trade mark, as well as to sell or licence the trade mark for others to use.

Unlike copyright, trade marks must be formally registered with IP Australia.



Protect Your Artworks and Branding with the Attorneys at KINGS!

Australia’s copyright system provides automatic protection for artworks and other original creations. That’s excellent news for artists, but businesses still need to ensure their unique ideas are protected.

For support with registering and managing trade marks, designs and patents, talk to the attorneys at Kings!

Kings is an independent intellectual property firm based in Brisbane that works with clients all over the country. Our attorneys are experts in all areas of copyright and intellectual property law.

With a background in technology, mining, engineering, life sciences and more, we can provide the protection your business needs.

Whether you are protecting artworks, branding, products or inventions, we can develop a solution that supports your requirements. Contact us online to book a confidential consultation today!

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