Creating copyright material

Copyright refers to the ownership rights of creators of material such as literary and artistic works.

In Australia, under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), copyright includes the rights of reproduction (copying), communication, publication, public performance, adaptation (modification or creation of derivative works), sale and distribution.

Intellectual Property (IP)

If you are creating works which are intended to be reproduced and re-used by others, this immediately raises copyright issues and it is essential that you are familiar with your copyright rights and responsibilities. If you are able to identify Intellectual Property (IP) issues when they arise, you will be better placed to make informed decisions about the management of those issues and reduce the potential for dispute.

Placing a copyright statement on your work identifies you as the creator of that work and may make it easier for you to assert your rights. An effective copyright statement can be as simple as:

  • Copyright symbol ©
  • Year of publication or creation
  • Your name

Rights of the copyright owner

Under the Australian Copyright Act, copyright owners have a number of exclusive rights:

  • Reproduction (e.g. photocopying, scanning, downloading)
  • Publishing (distributing copies for sale)
  • Performing or playing the work in public
  • Communicating to the public (e.g. making available online, sending by email, delivering a conference paper)
  • Making an adaptation or translation of the work
  • Right to do any of the above acts in relation to an adaptation of the work

These rights are commercial rights and give the copyright owner a monopoly to control how their work can be used.
Rights may vary between different types of works and are exclusive to the copyright owner (i.e. the copyright owner may perform these actions or authorise someone else to do so).

Creators also have Moral Rights. These are not commercial rights and cannot be assigned or licensed.

Moral rights

Under Moral rights law, someone using your work must provide sufficient acknowledgement of the work copied, identifying you as the creator/author and the work from which the copy is taken (by its title and other descriptive information).

Moral rights refer to the rights of an author or artist to be:

  • Acknowledged as the author of any work they create (Right of attribution)
  • The right not to have an unauthorised version of their work falsely credited to them (Right against false attribution)
  • The right not to have their work subjected to unreasonable derogatory treatment, mutilation or alteration (Right of integrity)

Moral rights cannot be assigned or licensed and last for the same period of time as copyright protection.

Sharing your work

Think carefully about what reuses of your work you would like to encourage.
Many people mistakenly believe that if there is no copyright statement, they can do whatever they want with your work. Including contact information and instructions for seeking permission with your work makes it clear to others when permission is required and who to contact for permission.

If there are certain uses you are not okay with others making of your work, think carefully about how you share.

  • You might consider adding a watermark to identify your work or, if your work is in digital format, uploading a low resolution image of your work to the web. In either case, make sure to include contact information with your work so that someone wanting to re-use your work can contact you either for a non-watermarked copy or to request a high resolution copy.
  • If you want to prevent people from re-using your work without your permission, you might consider applying a Technological Protection Measure (TPM). TPMs are commonly used on digital music, movies, computer software and games. However, be sure to include contact information with your work so that someone wanting to re-use your work can contact you.

If there are certain uses you are okay with others making of your work, consider sharing in a way that will promote or permit those uses.

  • Making your work available under an open licence is one way to proactively let others know what uses are permitted beyond those normally allowed under copyright law.
  • Offering your work under a Creative Commons licence does not mean giving up your copyright. It means permitting others to make use of your material in various ways, but only on certain conditions.

Researchers and scholars

As the author of a work, you are the copyright owner unless or until you transfer your copyright to someone else in a signed agreement.

If you have assigned or licensed copyright in your research to someone else, this may affect how you can share your research. For example, assigning your copyright unreservedly to a publisher may mean that only the publisher will be able to reproduce, publish, communicate, perform or adapt your work – thus, preventing you from reusing or distributing your work without publisher permission.

Therefore, before you sign, scrutinise your agreement and consider:

  • The rights you want to retain
  • The ways you want to use and develop your own work without restriction
  • How to increase access to your work for educational and research purposes
  • Your right to be properly attributed when your work is used
  • Your right to deposit your work in an online archive or repository
  • The requirement to adhere to the open access policies of the ARC, NHMRC and the University of South Australia
  • Your publisher's right for a non-exclusive licence to publish and distribute your work for a financial return
  • Your publisher's right to be properly attributed and cited
  • Your publisher's right to migrate your work to future formats and include it in collections

If you have included content where the copyright is owned by someone other than yourself (e.g. diagram, text, photograph) or you share copyright ownership with your co-authors, you do not necessarily have the right to re-use that material without first seeking permission.

For information about publishing, including Open Access publishing, refer to the Library's Publishing guide. For information about how copyright applies to your thesis, refer to the Library's Theses guide.