Visual Art Licences Q&As

What is good practice in relation to licensing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island artworks?

A group of industry experts – including artists, art centres, manufacturers, distributors and retailers – met for two days in Melbourne in April 2018 to discuss the successes and challenges in bringing products featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island artworks (predominately gifts and homewares) to market.

The guides below address the ideas and practices behind good licensing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Three of the documents provide information for different groups within the licensing supply chain, and should be read in conjunction with the overview.

If you have further questions, please contact our Visual Arts team on

Licensing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art

Why do I need a licence?

The copyright owner of an artistic work has the exclusive right to reproduce, publish and communicate the work to the public; for example, printing it in a book, reproducing it on merchandise or publishing it on a website.

If you want to reproduce someone else’s artwork you need to have permission from the copyright owner unless the copyright has expired or an exception applies.

If the copyright owner is a Copyright Agency member you can apply directly to us for permission (via  a licence) which will allow you to use the work in a certain way, under certain terms and conditions.

Copyright enables creators to receive recognition and reward for their creative work. Copyright also gives an artist a voice in how and where their creative work is used.

When don’t I need a licence?

Once copyright in an artwork has expired, it is in the public domain and can be used by anyone without copyright clearance or permission.

The Copyright Act also allows for the use of copyright material without the permission of the copyright owner under certain exceptions.

The Australian Copyright Act contains provisions that also allows certain uses of content without a copyright clearance, subject to fair payment. These provisions are known as statutory licences.

If your proposed use is not covered by any of the exceptions or a statutory licence, you need permission for the use. If you are unsure you should seek legal advice, otherwise you risk infringing copyright.

You will still need to observe moral rights obligations, such as attributing the work correctly and maintaining the integrity of the work.

How long will it take to get a licence?

Please allow at least ten working days to obtain a licence, or longer if the artist or estate need to be consulted.

The more information we have from your first enquiry, the quicker the process will be.

You may also be required to submit design proofs and/or samples for uses such as book covers, advertising or merchandise. We will let you know if this is the case and will give you an expected time frame.

How much will a licence cost?

The cost of your licence will depend on how you intend to use the artwork. Some charges are subject to negotiation with the artist and we will advise you when this is the case.

A guide to some of our standard licence fees is provided here.

Does the Copyright Agency supply the image?

No, however if you need a high-resolution digital image we have around 3,000 images by some of our Australian members.  You can submit a query if you have an idea or theme you are seeking and we can direct you.

Alternatively, you can source electronic images and transparencies from museums and online picture libraries or image banks. We strongly recommend that you use a reputable picture library which supplies properly licensed images.

December 2022

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