Do you publish or host content online? Perhaps you collate the week’s best Medium posts or are a prolific blogger about street style. We set out below who owns or controls your content online as well as what steps you can take to protect your creative works. If you upload third party content, we will also look at the exceptions to copyright infringement.

What is Online Content?

Content captures images, videos, podcasts or articles that a user publishes online. Australia’s Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (the Act) protects the expression of an author’s idea. Importantly, the Act does not protect mere ideas.

Copyright is automatic in Australia and attaches itself to “original work” expressed in a “material form” – that is, the author must write the article, publish their video online or in another tangible format. There is no registration process. Notwithstanding, the law considers that the author of copyrighted material will need to take active steps to protect and enforce their rights. You should explicitly state in your website terms of use that you are the work’s original author and own the intellectual property.

Who Owns Your Content Online?

The circumstances under which you create the work will affect who owns your content online. Generally, the author of the work will own the copyright unless they have assigned or licenced their rights.

Another situation whereby the author does not own the copyright in their work is when an employee has completed the work as part of their employment. Here, the employer owns and controls the employee’s work. For example, an employee that completes medical research in a lab. The employer pays the employee and the employment agreement clearly states that the employer owns any intellectual property the employee creates. This ownership means the employer has the exclusive right to ‘exploit’ the work – that is, reproduce, publish it online and/or make adaptations to the work.

What are Moral Rights?

If you have created content online, you as the original author will have the moral rights to your work to help protect the integrity and ownership of your work. These moral rights are non-transferable and cannot be purchased.

Moral rights are:

  1. The author’s right of integrity;
  2. Right of attribution; and
  3. The right not to have authorship falsely attributed.

Under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000, anybody dealing with “creative work” must uphold the creator’s moral rights. Further, moral rights also apply to copyright material made available online per the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2001. 

What is Fair Dealing?

People other than the owner or author can reproduce copyright material published online if it falls within the ambit of “fair dealing”. Under the Act, another person is allowed to reproduce a work without the owner’s permission if it is for the following purposes:

  1. Research or study;
  2. Criticism or review;
  3. Parody or satire; and
  4. Reporting the news.

Factors such as the whether there is a commercial purpose for reproduction and if the owner suffers a loss from the reproduction will likely affect whether the dealing is fair.

Facebook and Copyright Law

Facebook is an increasingly popular platform for authors to post and share their creative works. Posting your work on Facebook will not remove your right to assert ownership over your intellectual property. You do, however, need to take active steps to protect your intellectual property. If you believe someone is infringing your IP rights on Facebook, you can fill out a form and submit it to Facebook’s representatives. It is also prudent that you send a message to the person who is infringing your work and request they take it down immediately.

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If you have any questions about how you can protect your content online, get in touch with our intellectual property lawyers on 1300 544 755.

Esther Mistarz

Next Steps

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