Copyright law in Australia


Copyright is a separate right to the property right in an object. This means that the person who owns a book or painting will not own copyright in the book or painting unless it has been specifically assigned to them.

In Australia, copyright protection is automatic. There is no need for copyright registration in Australia, nor is there a legal requirement to publish the material or to put a copyright notice on it. Material will be protected as soon as it is put into material form, such as being written down or recorded in some way (eg filmed or recorded).

In Australia, copyright law comes from the Commonwealth Copyright Act 1968 (Copyright Act). The Act provides students and researchers with a provision for copying material, known as the Fair Dealing exception, for research or study.

Copyright law in Australia is:

  • free-to-use
  • applied upon the creation of the work (there’s no registration system in Australia)
  • endures for 70 years after the death of the author (although there are some exceptions to this)
  • applicable to all original work including artworks, drama, literary material, music, and video.

Australian copyright law won’t:

  • protect your ideas, information, styles or techniques
  • protect any names, titles or slogans

For further information see An introduction to copyright in Australia from the Australian Copyright Council.

What to consider before seeking permission

There may be times when you can’t copy material without the copyright owner’s permission. Australia has a number of organisations that act on behalf of copyright owners.

Contact the relevant agency to seek permissions for any third-party copyright material falling outside our exceptions and licences. If you’re unsure who you should contact or have difficulty receiving a response, contact the UOW Copyright Officer.

Consider these eight questions before requesting permission for copyright:

  1. Who owns the copyright?
  2. How do I intend to use the material (now and in the future)?
  3. Have I allowed enough time to receive a response from the copyright owner?
  4. Is my request reasonable?
  5. Is my request short and simple?
  6. How much am I willing to pay if the copyright owner asks for a licence fee?
  7. Where will I keep a copy of my permission letter or email?
  8. What’s my ‘Plan B’ if my request is denied?