Sociology Index

Australian Copyright Law

Australian copyright law is based British model, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, other multilateral treaties, and the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

The Australian Copyright Act 1968 does not cover all forms of intellectual property. Trademarks, patents and circuit layouts are covered by separate legislation, though designs may be covered by the Copyright Act (as sculptures or drawings) as well as by the Design Act.
Australian law confers rights in works, also known as "Part III Works" : namely, literary works, musical works, artistic works, and dramatic works.

Australian law confers rights in "other subject matter", also known as "Part IV Subject Matter", which cover the kinds of material protected in some countries by 'neighbouring rights': sound recordings, films, broadcasts, and published editions.

To be protected, material must fall into one of these exclusive categories. The rights in Part IV subject matters are more limited, because infringement requires exact copying of the actual subject matter (sound-alikes or remakes are not covered).

In terms of the exclusive rights, different kinds of subject matter have different rights.

Owners of copyright in works have rights to reproduce, publish (meaning publish for the first time), perform, and adapt the work, and communicate it to the public (including broadcast, or communicate by making available online). Owners of copyright in artistic works are more limited (there is no right to control public display of artistic works).

Owners of copyright in other subject matter have the exclusive right to make copies, to communicate them to the public, and to cause them to be heard/seen in public.

Infringement occurs where a person does an act falling within the copyright owner's exclusive rights, without the authorisation of the copyright owner.

Duration of copyright:

Prior to t, Australia used a "plus 50" rule for determining when a work will enter the public domain. Put simply, a "work" (ie a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work) entered the public domain 50 years following the year of the creator's death, with exceptions.

With the signing of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement in 2005, copyright should be understood as "plus 70", in line with the European Union and other regions. The extension to "plus 70" was not applied to Crown-owned copyrights.

Fair dealing and other exceptions:

Fair dealing is comparable to the United States' fair use. In order to be a fair dealing under Australian law a use must fall within one of range of specific purposes. These purposes vary by type of work, but the possibilities are: review or criticism, research or study, news-reporting, judicial proceedings or professional legal advice, parody or satire.