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Do you have a creative or innovative business? Do you create unique work? Intellectual Property (IP) is a vital business asset for you.

Many businesses seek help when another business has breached their copyright and used their work. This can devastate a small business, for example a competitor using your copyright work could damage your brand and take your customers.

This article focuses on copyright rights including protecting your copyright from the start. This is part 1 of a 5-part series on how to protect and monetise your IP. Part 2 looks at trademarks, Parts 3 and 4 explain how to license or assign your IP and Part 5 focuses on protecting your IP from ex-staff.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is the package of rights that you own for something that you have created. Copyright protects your creative work. Copyright is automatic in Australia and is free, you do not need to register your work or pay registration fees.

Who owns copyright?

Anyone who creates a creative work can own the copyright. This includes photographers, designers, artists, musicians, writers, film makers and performers.

What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects:

  1. Artistic works including photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures and plans;
  2. Literary works including website copy, reports, stories, poems and lyrics;
  3. Broadcasts on TV, radio, Internet and film;
  4. Musical works and sound recordings; and
  5. Dramatic works including plays and mime.

What is not protected?

Copyright does not protect an idea. Copyright protects how you express the idea. For example, 2 photographers may have the same idea to photograph a sunrise over a famous lake. Neither own this idea, but each photographer owns the copyright in their photos.

What protection does copyright give you?

Copyright protects the creative expression of ideas. It gives you:

  1. Ownership – this is automatic and free;
  2. The right to adapt your work; and
  3. The right to use your copyright material, including to license or assign it.

It provides the exclusive rights to use, copy, license, perform and modify the creative work.

Copyright owners’ next steps

Once you have created work, what can you do with it?

  1. Show the public that you own the copyright with a copyright notice;
  2. Protect your work with the right legal documents; and
  3. Make money from your creative work by licensing or assigning it.

Step 1: Copyright notice – what and where

A copyright notice states who created the work and when. It includes:

  1. The copyright symbol;
  2. Creator’s name – e.g. you if you are a sole trader, or your company name if you have a company; and
  3. Year of creation.

Example: © LegalVision ILP 2015

Our Tip: Add your copyright notice to your work now!

Put a copyright notice on all works that you create, e.g. on each page of your website, on each photograph available to the public (e.g. on a website), on each film you make, on each CD you record, on each book that you write etc.

Step 2: Protect your work – Website Terms and Business Terms

Website Terms: Your website will have your copyright work, including information about your business. It is wise to have Website Terms, which apply to every visitor to your website, to protect your website. These include that all website material is owned or licensed to you, and cannot be used by third parties.

Business Terms: Your Business Terms apply to each client or customer. These should set out your IP rights. If you provide services, you may license or assign your IP to your clients or customers. Your Business Terms need to set this out in detail.

Step 3: Make money from your creative work.

Copyright gives you the right to reproduce, publish, copy, change, license and sell your work. We discuss how to license or assign your IP in parts 3 and 4 of this series.

Our Tip: Check what your Business Terms say about whether you are assigning or licensing your IP. We help our clients license their IP where possible. If you assign your IP, you generally cannot use that IP again.


A good lawyer will help you work out what IP you own, how to protect it, and how to monetise it. LegalVision helps many creatives to keep their copyright ownership, and to make money from their creative work. Give us a call on 1300 544 755, we’d love to help you too!


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