Copyright, simply, is a group of rights that are granted exclusively to creative work.  Types of works capable of attracting Copyright protection include books, paintings, sketches, blueprints, scripts, storyboards, sound recordings, graphic designs and building models or sitemaps. Copyright protection enables you to reproduce the material and, if applicable, the right to perform or show the work publicly.

What is Copyright?

Copyright protection is automatic and provided for under the Copyright Act 1968.  It gives the owner the exclusive right to, amongst other things, licence others when making adaptations of their work.  

Technology presents a challenge to publishers because of the sheer volume of information that is around and is publishable.  Publishers must be very careful to ensure that what they are publishing does not infringe copyright – this can be a tough task.

When is Copyright infringed?

Using just part of a work (i.e. other people’s quotes and writing extracts) without permission may infringe copyright if that part is deemed a ‘substantial’ part of the work. In this context, the issue is not whether you have used a large portion of the work or whether you have changed and/or adapted it. But, whether the part used is an important, essential or distinctive part of the original material.  Accordingly, the use of a relatively small proportion of a work may amount to misappropriation.  Whether or not infringement has occurred will ultimately depend upon the particular circumstances of each case.

When do you need permission to use someone else’s work?

If you are reproducing a quote, you may need permission if: 

  • The quotation is a work for the purpose of copyright; or
  • The quotation is an important part of the work.  

Copyright will be infringed if a ‘substantial part’ of the work is used in a way reserved exclusively to the copyright owner. A part may be considered ‘substantial’ if it is ‘essential’, ‘distinctive’ or ‘important.’ For example, using just 4 lines from a 32 line poem has been considered an infringement. Whether you will require permission to reproduce the work, or part of the work, will largely depend on the circumstances of each case.

Standalone phrases may be too small or unoriginal to be regarded as works and consequently, not protected by copyright. These include single words, names, titles and slogans. Whether or not an infringement has occurred is again, driven by the individual facts of the case and in each case, it is very much a question of degree.

Acknowledging the source of the work is not a substitute for obtaining permission. And identifying the owner of the work is not a defence.

When can you use copyright material without permission?

There are special exceptions which allow for the use of copyright material for certain purposes without the owner’s permission (the ‘fair dealing exceptions’), including for the purpose of:

  • Criticism or review,
  • Research or study,
  • Parody or satire,
  • Professional advice, or
  • News reporting.

LegalVision can assist publishers in checking whether or not the material they intend to publish infringes copyright.  If you would like legal assistance with copyright matters, simply get in touch with LegalVision today at 1300 544 755. Our litigation lawyers are waiting to assist!

Emma George

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