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  Category: Articles » Writing & Speaking » Copywriting » Article

Australian Copyright and the Copywriter

By Martin Print

THE terms copyright and copywriter are often confused and I have had several requests from people asking me to explain how they can take out a copyright on their work. I then have to tell them that as a copywriter, I write all kinds of promotional material, among other things, and have nothing to do with copyright.

So, what is copyright?

It is a type of legal protection for people who express ideas and information in areas such as writing, visual images, music and moving images. It is not the ideas but their expression that are protected by copyright law. This means that the person who originates the work, unless employed to do so by another party such as a journalist on a newspaper, retains the sole rights to that work and no other person can use it without the originator's permission.

Copyright is intended to protect creative works from being used without the agreement of the owner and to provide an incentive for creators to continue to create new material. Copyright law is contained in the Copyright Act 1968 (the Act), and in court decisions that have interpreted the provisions of the Act. The Act is amended from time to time to keep the law up to date. The law gives owners of copyright exclusive rights to do certain things with their material.

Copyright can be traded just like any other type of property such as real estate. But it is different to tangible property because it can be copied or otherwise used easily without the owner knowing.

There is no system of registration for copyright protection in Australia. Works do not have to be published to put a copyright notice on them, protection is free and automatic. There are no forms to fill in and no fees. A work is protected automatically from the time it is first written or recorded provided it is a result of its originator's skill and effort and is not copied from another work. So, when a poem is written or a song recorded they are both protected.

Australian copyright works are protected in most countries and copyright works from most countries are protected in Australia. There is no need to put a copyright notice on any work for it to be protected in Australia but it can be included to remind people that it is protected by copyright.

The length of protection varies with the type of material but in most cases, copyright lasts from when it is created to the end of the life of the creator plus 70 years. After that, the material enters the 'public domain' where it can be freely used without permission.

Copyright owners may assign or license their rights to others but assignment of copyright and licences can include limitations on the type of use that can be made of the work, the period of time for which a licence applies and requirements for payment. Under the Copyright Act 1968, reproducing copyright material without the copyright owner's permission will usually be an infringement of copyright. Copyright holders can directly negotiate an agreement that will allow their material to be used.

What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects:

* journal articles, novels, screenplays, poems, song lyrics and reports;

* computer programs

* anthologies, directories and databases

* paintings, drawings, cartoons, sculpture, craft work, architectural plans, buildings, photographs, maps and plans;

* choreography, screenplays, plays and mime pieces;

* musical works: the music itself not the lyrics or recording;

* cinematograph films;

* sound recordings;

* broadcasts;

Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work will be protected by copyright if it is 'original.' Original meaning that the work has not been copied from something else.

What is not protected?

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, styles, techniques or information. As an example, a written outline of an idea for a play or novel will be protected by copyright but someone else could write their own play or novel based on those ideas, without necessarily breaching the copyright. The other person would only breach the copyright if they copied enough of the way the plot had been structured or if they copied enough of the dialogue.

About the Author
Martin Print, based in Australia, have helped more than 2000 clients grow their businesses by generating more sales through creative print & design. More info:

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