Copyright law in Australia

Copyright is an integral and ever-changing area of intellectual property law. The main purpose of Copyright law in Australia is to regulate the creation, distribution and use of a range of different types of ‘works’, in a way that balances the competing interests of copyright owners, authors and the general public. It is also vital in ensuring that the owner of the copyright can prohibit others from copying their work and creates the rights for the owner to reproduce their own work.

Copyright covers many different types of works, from books, musical works, computer programs, plays and films through to television broadcasts and sound recordings.

There are different categories of subject matter that are recognised under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). If a work falls within one of these categories, copyright protection arises automatically. Distinctions are drawn between authorial works (literary, dramatic, artistic and musical works) and ‘subject matter other than works’ (films, sound recordings, television and sound broadcasts, and published editions) within the Copyright Act.

The distinction is important because it influences the criteria that need to be satisfied for a creation to qualify for protection, as well as how long your copyright protection lasts and the defences that are available if copyright infringement occurs.

What happens to my copyright when I die?

Copyright protection varies after you die, depending on what type of work it is and whether or not it was published.

Copyright owners have always argued for longer protection and the 2005 amendments to the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) granted those requests, changing the protection duration on some works from 50 to 70 years.

Copyright duration on works that have never been seen by the public eye is indefinite. If the work was to be published after the author’s death the 70 years of protection begins from the date of publication.

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