Reading time: 3 minutes

If you write an investigative article or design a business’ logo as a freelance artist, copyright will automatically attach to your work. Copyright is an automatic protection of “works” and “subject matter other than works” that are in material form. “Works” includes artistic, literary, dramatic and musical works whereas “subject-matter other than works” includes films, sound recordings, broadcasts and published editions.

There is, however, a difference between the copyright author and copyright owner. Below, we step you through these differences as well as some points to consider when determining whether you own the work you create.

General Rules Attaching to Authors

The general starting point is that the author or creator of works is the first owner of copyright and has automatic ownership. There may, however, be instances where the author cannot be distinguished. For example, where two or more people equally contributed to the creative work, they may be joint authors (and as such, joint owners) under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (the Act). 

Under the Act, moral rights also attach to all authors of copyright works. Moral rights protect creators by ensuring they are always attributed or credited to the original as well as safeguarding the integrity of the work, even if you have transferred ownership.

Section 196(1) of the Act defines copyright as personal property. It follows that although an author of copyright material is usually the first owner, they may not ever be an owner. This concept is best explained through the examples we’ve set out below.

Employees

Employment agreements typically include an IP assignment clause which states that an employer has ownership of the work an employee creates during the course of their employment.

Importantly, independent contractors or freelancers (e.g. photographers or journalists) usually own the copyright in their work subject to any agreement they have with the publisher.

A copyright author can always:

  1. Licence rights to copyright (this will not transfer ownership); or
  2. Assign ownership of the copyright to another.

As such, whether an employee owns the copyright as the original author will depend on the express terms of the contract. 

Sound Recording and Films

The issue of ownership can become complicated regarding sound recordings and films. Usually, a person who creates a sound recording or film is the owner. But where someone records a live performance, the performer likely owns the copyright.

Government Material

Under the Act, the Australian Government and State or Territory government will have ownership of copyright which is made by or first published under their direction or control.  

Key Takeaways

Although copyright is an automatic right that attaches to works or subject matter other than works in a material form, the author is not always the copyright owner. It’s important to understand then under which circumstances you might assign your intellectual property rights to an employer, or co-own the copyright. 

If you have any questions about how to best protect your creative works, get in touch with our IP lawyers on 1300 544 755. 

Webinars

Redundancies and Restructuring: Understanding Your Employer Obligations

Thursday 7 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
If you plan on making a role redundant, it is crucial that you understand your employer obligations. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Sponsor Foreign Workers For Your Tech Business

Wednesday 13 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Need web3 talent for your tech business? Consider sponsoring workers from overseas. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Advertising 101: Social Media, Influencers and the Law

Thursday 21 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Learn how to promote your business on social media without breaking the law. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Structuring for Certainty in Uncertain Times

Tuesday 26 July | 12:00 - 12:45pm

Online
Learn how to structure to weather storm and ensure you can take advantage of the “green shoots” opportunities arising on the other side of a recession.
Register Now

Playing for the Prize: How to Run Trade Promotions

Thursday 28 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Running a promotion with a prize? Your business has specific trade promotion obligations. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Web3 Essentials: Understanding SAFT Agreements

Tuesday 2 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Learn how SAFT Agreements can help your Web3 business when raising capital. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

Understanding Your Annual Franchise Update Obligations

Wednesday 3 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Franchisors must meet annual reporting obligations each October. Understand your legal requirements by registering for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Legal Essentials for Product Manufacturers

Thursday 11 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
As a product manufacturer, do you know your legal obligations if there is a product recall? Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards