Indigenous copyright

Many of the Copyright Agency’s visual artists members are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Reflecting this important membership group, the Copyright Agency is a signatory to protocols on the use of Indigenous works, and a registered supporter member of the Indigenous Art Code.

We support the development of projects which benefit progressive and creative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and provide access to opportunities that promote the creators, their works and achievements. In recognition of this, we’ve developed a Reconciliation Action Plan, which outlines the specific commitments we are making as an organisation.


Traditional symbols, songs, dances, performances and rituals may be a part of the heritage of particular Indigenous language groups and the artists that produce these are custodians of that culture.

Protocols produced by the Australia Council for the Arts take you through the legal, ethical and moral considerations for the use of First Nations cultural and intellectual property. The guidelines are based on ten principles that include self-determination; communication, consultation and consent; attribution; and recognition and protection.

These guidelines are relevant to anyone working in or with the Indigenous arts sector, including:

  • Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists
  • international organisations and artists
  • people working within related fields of Indigenous art form practice
  • commonwealth and state/territory government agencies
  • local governments/councils
  • industry agencies and peak organisations
  • galleries, museums and arts centres
  • educational and training institutions
  • Indigenous and targeted mainstream media

Internationally, the Intergovernmental Committee (ICG) on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is finalising an agreement on international instruments for protecting Indigenous cultural material and heritage. This Committee was set up in 2000 and holds meetings with WIPO member states and Indigenous representatives to find solutions for the protection of valuable Indigenous cultural material and heritage like art, songs, stories, dance, crafts, language and so on. For more information on this work, visit WIPO’s ICG page.

Resources, advice and help

We’ve developed this booklet to provide artists, art centres and communities with important information about copyright, licensing and ownership of artists’ works.

other helpful links


Protocols for using First Nations Cultural and Intellectual Property in the Arts


First published in 2002 and revised in 2007, the 2020 edition consolidates what was previously five guides into one and is updated to reflect current practice. The protocols include case studies to demonstrate how the protocols may be put into practice. Download the PDF here.

Guidelines for the ethical publishing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and research from those communities The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies‘ (AIATSIS) guidelines for ethical publishing. They embody the key idea that the publishing of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander authors needs to be done ethically.
Artists in the Black Artists in the Black is a service of Arts Law, dedicated to providing legal assistance and advice to Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and communities. View their educational videos on YouTube here.
Artists’ Resale Royalty Scheme Information about the artists’ resale royalty scheme for Indigenous artists and art centres. The scheme entitles artists to a royalty on certain resales of their works.
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Bibi Barba [Photo © Bryan Sun]

Artist Profile

Bibi Barba

For those who appreciate my work and want to reuse it, I do expect to be fairly paid.

Photo by Bryan Sun

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