The Law of Copyright
The law of copyright in Australia is set out in the Copyright Act 1968 (as amended). It operates throughout Australia and overrides all State legislation. The Act divides material into two categories—’works’ (literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and computer programs) and ’other subject matter’ (films, records, television and sound broadcasts). It also deals with performers’ rights and the moral rights of individual creators.
Copyright exists in a work as soon as it is created. In Australia, there is no formal registration procedure. As a result of Australia’s obligations under international treaties (Berne and Universal), almost all copyright material created overseas is also protected in Australia under the Act. While the copyright symbol © does not have to appear on an Australian work to protect it, use of the symbol is common, in order to ensure protection in other countries.
Length of Copyright
In Australia, copyright exists for seventy years after the creator’s death. In the case of a work:
• published, performed or broadcast after the creator’s death; or
• published anonymously or under a pseudonym—and the creator’s identity cannot be reasonably ascertained
then copyright exists for seventy years after the date of first publication, performance or broadcast. As the duration of copyright varies from country to country, it is necessary to check the copyright expiry of foreign material in the country of origin. Relevant permission must be obtained in respect of the countries in which the copyright still exists.
Extent of Copyright
- Copyright does not protect:
- ideas, concepts, styles, techniques, information. However other laws may come into effect.
words, names, titles, slogans, headlines. However other laws, such as those covering trade marks, may come into effect.
- people, people’s images. However other laws, such as the Trade Practices Act and those covering defamation, may come into effect.
Copyright of Works
Copyright protects textual material, computer programs, compilations, artistic works, dramatic works, musical works, cinematograph films, sound recordings, broadcasts and published editions.
Copyright protects the form of presentation of material, not the basic idea or ideas contained in it. So you could take the plot of a short story, rewrite it entirely in your own way and you would probably not be infringing copyright, unless you set out to create deliberate confusion between your work and the original (this is known as ’passing off’). The presentation of a railway timetable is protected by copyright—but the information it contains may be used in other ways without infringing copyright.
Copyright may be assigned or licensed. This is the usual arrangement between an author and a publisher. A contract is signed, giving the publisher the right to publish the material under certain conditions.
Artwork and Photographs
Copyright exists in artwork (for example, cartoons) and photographs, just as it does in typeset material. An artist who paints a portrait retains ownership of the copyright unless it is specifically assigned to someone else. A photographer who takes a photograph retains ownership of the copyright, unless it is assigned to someone else. If you purchase the rights of a photograph from the owner then you can only use it as agreed.
Copyright exists in music and includes reproduction in material form (on a record or film), publishing a work, performing a work in public, broadcasting a work in public, adapting a work.
Infringement of Copyright
Broadly, there are two forms of copyright infringement: copying large amounts of material, using a photocopying machine; taking pieces of material from a published work and incorporating them in another work.
Photocopying becomes a blatant breach of copyright, when you take a substantial portion of a publication and distribute multiple copies. There are provisions for educational institutions to copy publications in this way, and to pay for the privilege. Girl Guides Australia pays a license fee so that Trainers may distribute multiple photocopies of extracts of published works for educational purposes. These can be from Australian and international books, journals, newspapers, magazines and electronic media such as websites. As a general rule of thumb a maximum of one chapter or 10% of the publication can be copied. These should be identified as an extract, together with the author, title and publisher.
When it comes to republishing extracts from published works, the copyright law is realistic. There is usually no problem about making short extracts (otherwise, book reviews, for example would not be feasible). But make sure they are clearly identified as extracts, together with author, title and publisher. If it is inconvenient to add all this to an extract, give the information in a footnote or in an acknowledgments section.
What constitutes a brief, allowable extract, and what might be substantial to be a copyright breach?
Unfortunately, there are no clear rules. So if there is any doubt, apply to the original publisher for permission to use the extract, in exchange for a full acknowledgment. Sometimes a publisher will ask you to pay a small fee; in which case you can decide if the extract is worth the fee. If a publisher does ask you to pay a fee, you can check with National Office.
Non-profit organisations are not exempt from copyright obligations because they are non-profit.
Personal use of copyright material is specifically defined in the Act and is very narrow, for example, taping a television program for personal viewing.
Modifying a work does not necessarily exempt you from copyright. If any part of the modified work is easily identifiable from the original material—even if only a small proportion—then permission is required.
Moral rights, as per the Copyright Amended (Moral Rights) Act 2000, recognise an author’s creativity and are held by the individual creators of copyright works, whether they own the copyright or not. Moral rights apply to literary material, artistic works, musical works, dramatic works, computer programs and cinematograph films. These rights apply for the same length of time as copyright material. Girl Guide members must take care to credit creators where required and when adapting material.
Moral rights may be infringed by:
- reproducing a work without identifying the creator
- exhibiting a work in public without identifying the creator
- transmitting a work without identifying the creator
- distorting, corrupting or materially altering a work, which is prejudicial to the creator’s reputation
- not attributing a creator at all
- not attributing a creator as stipulated or by a clear, reasonably prominent form of identification
- falsely attributing a work to someone other than the creator
- treating a work in a derogatory way.
Copyright within Girl Guides Australia
- All national publications are the copyright of Girl Guides Australia. Apart from the purposes of review and brief quotation, membership of a State Girl Guide organisation does not confer the right of reproduction of materials from these publications without permission. In this regard, the National Office keeps a close eye on copyright infringements and will take action if necessary. One very practical reason for this is that Girl Guides Australia’s revenue from book sales may be eroded thus limiting the financing of new resources.
- In general and regardless of who tells you, do not commit the common error of believing that if you acknowledge the source, it is in order to reproduce anything you wish, and to any extent. Without the permission, and acknowledgment, of the original author and/or publisher, you are infringing copyright and could be liable under the Act.
- Someone may tell you in Guiding that you can reproduce anything from any Girl Guide magazine or Girl Guide publication. This is not necessarily true. Most Girl Guide magazines and newsletters keen to disseminate news and ideas will indicate that you may produce materials (other than copyright © materials) provided that you publish an appropriate acknowledgment.
- Girl Guide magazines generally indicate that ’Reproduction of copyright material © must be sought from the Editor or the source acknowledged by the magazine’. This may be because an editor has obtained a ’one time permission’ to reproduce an article in their magazine only. Use of that material by someone else without permission, constitutes a breach of the Act. If you wish to reprint it, contact the editor concerned and if they cannot assist, they will indicate the avenues you can pursue. Most publishers and authors are happy to cooperate with you if you ask and if your magazine has a reasonable standard of production and presentation.
- Where a Girl Guide magazine fails to indicate whether you can reprint materials or not or includes a line at the front of the magazine like ‘© Girl Guides Australia’, play safe and write to (or telephone) them about your requirements. Few, if any, will refuse.
Some publications including magazines pay top professional writes to prepare articles on the basis that the articles are only reproduced in those magazines and not elsewhere. ’Lifting’ such material is obviously illegal.
Another trap for editors is the reproduction of Guiding type cartoons or advertisements from newspapers or magazines on the basis that the originators must be predisposed to Guiding and will not object to more exposure. You should assume that all such material is fully protected by copyright and reproduce it only if you have written permission.
Logos and Badges
Guiding members must be careful when designing logos not to infringe copyright laws or the Girl Guides Australia logo guidelines. A common error is to use a type of cartoon or picture such as a Disney character and incorporate it with the Girl Guide logo. Not only has copyright law and logo guidelines been infringed but it is also likely that you have breached various trade mark provisions.
Words of songs or music may not be copied for campfires or for events, unless permission has been obtained from the author or the publisher. Organisers are encouraged to use existing published song books available from Girl Guide shops.
Performances of Music
Girl Guides Australia has obtained an agreement from the Australian Performing Right Association Ltd (APRA) to perform in public the music and words of musical works at any function connected with Girl Guide members’ activities where no admission is charged. This includes the playing of the radio, TV, CDs and DVDs at meetings, camps and other events and drama, and music concerts that are free of charge, such as a performance in a nursing home. This agreement does not extend to reproducing, publishing or adapting material, to which the usual copyright restrictions pertain.
Where admission fees are charged and the performance is advertised or promoted outside the Guiding community, such as Gang Show, then written approval from APRA in the form of a casual license must be sought. A fee based on the Box Office earnings will usually be payable after the event. You can either complete the online licence application form or call APRA on 1300 852 388.
Although a website is not protected by copyright, the component parts may be. Therefore, a written agreement with any paid website designer is advisable. It should clearly state:
• who is responsible for obtaining copyright clearance for material
• what elements the website designer owns copyright on
• what you can do with these elements.
Infringement of electronic copyright is likely where you have copied material from another website to your own or where material has been copied from your website to another without permission. An email or letter to the proprietor of the other website, advising them of the infringement, may be sufficient in the latter case. Permission to link your website to another suitable site is not usually required provided it is clear that the link is to another site.
• Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers: Australian Government Publishing Service, ACT.
• A Guide to Australian Law for Journalists, Authors, Printers: Geoffrey Sawer, Melbourne University Press
• Information Sheet G010v15 An introduction to copyright in Australia (March 2007): Australian Copyright Council
• Information Sheet G28 Logos: legal protection (February 2005): Australian Copyright Council
• Information Sheet G043 Moral rights (June 2006): Australian Copyright Council
• Information Sheet G57 Websites: creating and publishing on the internet (February 2005): Australian Copyright Council, NSW
Last Modified: 03/11/21 at 9:55 AM