What is Copyright?

Copyright is a type of property that is founded on a person’s creative skill and labour. It is designed to prevent the unauthorised use by others of a work, that is, the original form in which an idea or information has been expressed by the creator. Copyright protection is provided under the Copyright Act 1968 and both is free and automatic in Australia and protects the original expression of ideas, and not the ideas themselves.

First of, it must be understood that copyright is not a tangible thing. It is made up of a bundle of exclusive economic rights to do certain acts with an original work or other copyright subject-matter. These rights include the right to copy, publish, communicate (eg broadcast, make available online) and publicly perform the copyright material. Generally speaking, copyright is created when the creator documents their ideas to paper or electronically.

Copyright creators also have a number of non-economic rights. These are known as moral rights. This term derives from the French droit moral. Moral rights recognised in Australia are the right of integrity of authorship, the right of attribution of authorship and the right against false attribution of authorship.

A clear distinction exists between the copyright in a work and the ownership of the physical article in which the work exists. For example, an author may own the copyright in the text in a book even though the physical copy of the book will be owned by the person who purchases it. Similarly, the purchaser of an original painting does not have the right to make copies of it without the permission of the owner of copyright: the right of reproduction remains with the copyright owner who is generally the artist.

In most cases the issue of ownership of copyright will not be in dispute. However, where there is a dispute which comes before a court, the court will take into account the evidence of the person who created the work and other persons who were involved in or who knew about the creation of the work. Statements of the ownership of copyright and the date of publication or manufacture appearing on the labelling or packaging of copies of copyright materials will be treated in court as accurate evidence of what they say (through evidential presumptions), unless the person disputing those issues can point to something raising a question about their accuracy. Documents recording the passing of copyright from the original owner to the person claiming present ownership will be similarly treated as evidence unless there is something to question the accuracy of that.

Here at the Quinn Group, our dedicated and experienced team of lawyers can assist you with all matters relating to Copyright and protecting your Intellectual Property. Contact us on 1300 QUINNS (1300 784 667) or on +61 2 9223 9166 to arrange an appointment or by submitting an online enquiry.