About Copyright

Copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects the original expression of ideas. It enables creators to manage how their content is used.

The copyright system provides an environment that fosters the creation of new content for the benefit of society as a whole by:

  • providing an incentive for people to create and invest in new content by enabling them to set the terms on which others can use the content; these can (but might not) include payment
  • providing a financial reward to people who have created content that others find valuable, and lack the skill or time to produce for themselves.

There is no registration system for copyright under Australian law. Certain forms of expression, such as text, images and music, are automatically covered by copyright under the Copyright Act.

To achieve its objectives, the copyright system treats different uses of content in different ways. Some uses require permission, enabling the copyright owner to set the terms of use. Some uses do not require permission or payment. These include (subject to conditions) individual research or study; criticism, review, parody, satire, reporting news and private time-shifting, format-shifting and space-shifting.

Other uses do not require permission but do require fair payment. These include uses covered by the statutory licence for education and statutory licence for government managed by the Copyright Agency.

See the most common copyright myths to test your knowledge.

International copyright

Australian content is protected by copyright in most other countries. The Copyright Agency and Viscopy have reciprocal agreements with similar organisations in other countries, which enables the licensing of foreign content in Australia, and Australian content in other countries. See more about International Copyright.

Other forms of intellectual property

Other forms of intellectual property are patents (for inventions), trade marks (for branding) and design rights: see IP Australia.

More information

The Australian Copyright Council publishes information sheets and detailed guides, offers a legal advice service and runs an annual training program.

The Arts Law Centre of Australia have a Frequently Asked Questions page to assist with a broad range of copyright issues from moral rights to contracts and name protection.