Copyright basics

Staff members, students and associates of the University will use copyright materials throughout the course of their work and study. It is important to understand how to do this in accordance with legislation, any applicable contractual arrangements and licences, and University requirements.

The onus is on the staff member, student or associate to be aware of these requirements prior to using copyright materials and this website can help you understand your responsibilities. For specific advice and assistance, please contact Ask the Library.

Types of licences

Fair Dealing

Fair Dealing refers to the exceptions in the Copyright Act which allow you to use limited amounts of other people's work for certain purposes without having to obtain written permission from the copyright owner.

Disability provisions

The disability provisions enable individuals and educational organisations to assist people with disabilities by permitting copyright material to be converted into the best format available and with appropriate features for access by persons with a disability and by anyone assisting them. This includes enlarging text and graphics and changing the format.

Open licensing

Open licensing refers to schemes such as Creative Commons where creators retain the rights to their own work, but grant a licence to others to access, reuse and redistribute works with few or no restrictions and without the need to seek permission or pay royalties.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials released under an open licence. Check out the Library's OER Guide to learn more.

Creative Commons

There are several types of Creative Commons licences. Some only allow material to be used as-is, while others allow users to modify the material for their own needs or to use it commercially.

Creative Commons:

  • Provides user-friendly open licences for digital content
  • Takes into consideration the various copyright laws in different countries
  • Provides licences which include basic author rights
  • Enables authors to grant permission to make copies or make changes to their work
  • Enables authors to apply restrictions on permissions

The six main Creative Commons licences

  1. Attribution CC BY
    This licence lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licences offered and is recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials. This is the licence used by PLOS to make articles published in their journals immediately available online with no charges for access and no restrictions on subsequent redistribution or use, as long as the author(s) and source are cited, as specified by the Creative Commons Attribution Licence. View licence deed.
  2. Atrribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA
    This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This is the licence used by Wikipedia and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects. View licence deed.
  3. Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND
    This licence lets others reuse the work for any purpose, including commercially. However, it cannot be shared with others in adapted form and credit must be provided to you. View licence deed.
  4. Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC
    This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially and, although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms. View licence deed.
  5. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA
    This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially as long as they credit you and license their new creations under identical terms. This licence is used by MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) to release web versions of virtually all MIT course content. MIT OCW has over 2000 courses available freely and openly online for anyone, anywhere to adapt, translate, and redistribute. View licence deed.
  6. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND
    This licence is the most restrictive of the six main licences, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you and they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially. TED Talks are licensed under the CC BY-NC-ND licence which allows them to be redistributed unmodified for non-commercial purposes. View licence deed.

Understanding Creative Commons licence conditions

  • Attribution
    • You must attribute the material in the way the author requests
    • If you want to use the work without attributing the author/creator, or for endorsement purposes, you must get permission first
  • NonCommercial
    • You can copy, distribute, display, perform and modify the work for any purpose, except commercially, unless you get permission first
  • ShareAlike
    • You can copy, distribute, display, perform and modify the work, as long as you distribute any modified work under the same terms/licence
    • If you want to distribute modified works under other terms, you must get permission first
  • NoDerivatives
    • You can copy, distribute, display and perform only original copies of the work
    • You cannot modify the work, unless you get permission first

Check out the Know your rights: Understanding CC licences table developed by Creative Commons Australia for a visual overview of the licences.

Search Creative Commons content

CC Search is a web-based tool that searches for free content in the public domain as well as content published under a Creative Commons licence. The CC Search tool currently explores more than 300 million images. Whilst extensive, the amount and type of content retrieved by CC Search is not comprehensive.

A CC Search browser plugin allows you to search, bookmark and download images and their attributions. Find instructions for adding the CC Search browser extension to your browser on the Creative Commons Australia website.

More information


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