Copyright Law (an overview)

Copyright in Australia is governed by the Copyright Act 1968 (The Act). The Act provides copyright owners with exclusive rights to copy, publish, perform in public and to communicate their copyright material. Where such activities occur in another country then the copyright laws of that country apply.

Copyright material

Copyright protects literary (including computer software), dramatic, musical and artistic works, performances, published editions, sound recordings, films and broadcasts.

Using Copyright material for Teaching Purposes

The University participates in two statutory licencing schemes allowing staff to copy and communicate certain amounts of copyright material for teaching purposes without permission. Further information about the limits and conditions of using copyright material for teaching purposes is available from the Teaching and Copyright web page.

Copyright Exceptions

There are a number of exceptions to infringement provided in the Act which allow copyright material to be used by individuals in certain ways and under certain limitations without obtaining permission from the copyright owner. The most used exceptions in the academic environment are the Fair Dealing provisions for Research or Study and Criticism or Review.

Copyright Ownership

The University's Intellectual Property Policy outlines the obligations of employees, non-employees and students in regards to the ownership of copyright.  Further information about ownership of copyright created at UTAS is available on the Research Website IP Ownership page.

Duration of Copyright

The rules relating to how long copyright protection lasts vary according to such things as the material type, country of origin, and when it was made and published. Detailed information relating to copyright duration is available via the Australian Copyright Council Information Sheet Duration of Copyright.

Infringement of Copyright

Copyright is infringed when someone (other than the copyright owner) exercises any of the exclusive rights of the owner without their permission and no other exceptions apply. Copyright infringement is quite often a civil matter, however there are circumstances where copyright infringement is regarded as a criminal offence.

Penalties in relation to infringement are usually greatest where the economic impact of the breach is significant. This is often the case when files are electronically communicated to many others, such as through file sharing or uploading material on the internet. Music and film piracy is a major focus of action by the film and music industry. Therefore, it is imperative that University of Tasmania staff and students read and understand the University's ICT Services and Facilities Use Policy (PDF 399KB).  Please visit the Copyright Infringement frequently asked questions web page for further information.

Moral Rights

Moral Rights provisions within the Copyright Act give creators the right of attribution and the right of integrity in their creation.  The rights automatically arise when a work (e.g. books, plays, photographs, art works etc), motion film or performance is created.

The right of attribution requires that, whenever a work, motion film or performance is used it must be attributed to the creator. It also means that creation must not be falsely attributed.

The right of integrity requires that a work,  motion film or performance is not modified, distorted or altered in any way that prejudices the creator's reputation or professional standing.

Moral rights last for the life of the author plus 70 years, except in the case of film directors where their rights are limited to their lifetime. Moral rights cannot be assigned or sold.

More information relating to Moral Rights is available from the Australian Copyright Council Website information sheet G043.