Copy-right or copy-wrong?.

27 November 2017 | Reading time: 2 minutes

In an age where pirates download Game of Thrones, monkeys take selfies and almost every other month a music artist is accused of ‘ripping off’ a Marvin Gaye song, we hear the word ‘copyright’ thrown around a lot. But what does it all mean and why does it matter?

Copyright 101.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property which affords the creators of original works exclusive rights to reproduce, publish, perform in public, communicate to the public and make an adaptation of their work.

Work of art.

Copyright is automatic at the time the original work is created. The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Act) protects various forms of original expression, including literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works, as well as sound recordings and sound broadcasts, films and television.[1]

For example, that Harry Potter novel you loved reading, the painting that won the Archibald prize this year or that catchy Ed Sheeran song you heard on the radio again this morning, are all subject to copyright protection.

Teeny weeny copy?

You may have heard someone say ‘I thought I was allowed to copy 10%’ of someone else’s work. We’re not sure where this rumour came from, but it’s not necessarily true!

Put simply, copyright infringement will arise where a person, without the copyright owner’s permission, reproduces, uses or sells a ‘substantial part’ of the copyright owner’s work – this can be a quantitative as well as a qualitative test.

Law and enforcement.

Copyright owners can apply for various remedies against a copyright infringer, including:

  • damages;
  • an account of profits;
  • injunctive relief;
  • search and seizure orders; and
  • other remedies (eg apology).

Copyright infringers can also face criminal penalties.[2]

How do I make sure I’m copying-right?

The simplest way to avoid copyright infringement is to seek the copyright owner’s permission before using the copyrighted work. However, permission from the copyright owner is not always required because the Act contains ‘fair dealing’ exceptions[3] which allow use of copyrighted works without permission for the purpose of:

  • research or study;
  • criticism or review;
  • parody or satire; or
  • reporting the news.

If you think you are engaging in copyright infringement or are unsure whether a ‘fair dealing’ exception applies to your circumstances, you should contact an intellectual property lawyer at Bespoke to determine whether you are ‘copy-right’ or ‘copy-wrong’.

[1] Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) Pt IV, Div 3.
[2] Division 5 of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).
[3] Sections 40, 41, 41A, 42 103A, 103AA, 103B and 103C of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).