Copyright protects work expressed electronically, on paper and recording, including images, videos, text and software. Whether you are a business owner or content creator, you need to understand the ins and outs of Australian copyright laws to avoid copyright infringements.
Have you ever shared an image on your Instagram account without asking the original post’s owner for consent? Used unlicensed music for a video ad? Copied parts of a blog post or news article without permission? We’re sorry to say it, but if you answered even only one of these questions with yes, you could have made yourself liable to prosecution.
“Social media is a double-edged sword. I love sharing my work with others but have also encountered the downside of doing so– brands have posted my work without so much as crediting me, or even worse, try to pass it off as their own.” Jessica McQueen for Ask Angella, Society6
Copyright in Australia
Copyright provides creators with an incentive to create new works and a legal framework for the control of their creations. Copyright protection is free and applies automatically when material is created. There is no need for creators to register their work in Australia. However, copyright does not protect ideas, information, styles or techniques. Nor does it protect names, titles or slogans.
Australian copyright law applies to actions that take place in Australia, even if the material used was created or first published in another country.There are no general exemptions from copyright law for non-profit organisations. In very few situations, the current copyright law allows people to use copyrighted material without permission for their own personal use, but these are narrow and specific.
There are two image copyright categories
Public domain (PD) and Creative Commons (CC)
Knowing the difference between the two will help you share images on your blog or social media without breaking the law.
PD can be used without permission or attribution. Images in the public domain are those whose copyrights have expired or are inapplicable. Simply finding something on the internet after a quick Google search does not count.
CC can be used but need to be properly attributed to the owner or creator. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of images and other creative work.
Because we understand how important great visuals are for your work, we’ve collected a few resources for free images that you can use in your marketing efforts:
Are plagiarism and copyright infringement the same?
Plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same. Plagiarism is the act of not acknowledging the owner of the content and passing the work off as your own. You could, however, at the same time be committing copyright infringement.
Copying from a book or research article, or using that copy for an unauthorised purpose, even if you have attributed it, can see you breaching copyright. Copying text from a book which is out of copyright, but not acknowledging what you have copied, is plagiarism. It does, however, not constitute a breach of copyright.
Australian legalities behind copyright
In Australia, copyright law is set out in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).
According to the Australian Copyright Council, the local copyright protects:
- Textual material, including articles, poems, song lyrics and computer programs
- Artistic works, such as paintings, drawings, cartoons, sculpture, craft work, architectural plans, buildings, photographs, maps and plans
- Dramatic works, such as choreography and screenplays
- Musical works, that is, the music itself, separately from any lyrics or recording
- The visual images and sounds in a film
- Sound recordings
- TV and radio broadcasts
- Published editions
How long does copyright last?
The rules are that copyright generally lasts for the length of the life of the creator plus 70 years. If the duration depends on the year of publication, copyright persists until 70 years after the work is first published.
The consequences of copyright infringement
Infringement of copyright is using another individual’s intellectual property, creations or publications without their permission. Increased social sharing and access, has also increased the likelihood of infringement. But be aware, the violation of copyright laws, intentionally or not, can result in legal actions.
What happens if you are found guilty?
An Australian court can award a number of different types of final orders, including:
This is payment of money to compensate for the infringement. The amount of damages to be paid is based on the amount that the copyright owner would have been able to charge for the use of the material.
An account of profits
This is payment of any profits that the infringer has made from using the work. A court cannot award both damages and an account of profits; a copyright owner must ask for one or the other. For corporations the financial penalty can be up to $585,000. Individuals may face financial penalties of up to $117,000 and 5 years of imprisonment.
Delivery up of the infringing articles
A court can also order the infringer to deliver any infringing products and devices used to make the copied products. If the infringer is not able to do this, they may be ordered to pay “conversion damages”, relating to the value of the infringed product.
A court order that prohibits a party from doing or continuing to do something. In copyright infringement cases, an injunction usually prohibits the infringer from continuing to break copyright law.
In June 2015, the Copyright Act was amended to allow copyright owners seek an injunction against internet service providers. This made it easier to take legal action against online infringements. The new legislation enables copyright owners to apply for an order to “block” access to foreign websites that have the primary purpose to infringe, or to facilitate infringement of, copyright.
Keen to learn more about what type of images appeal to different generations? Check out our expert series and read this In-depth Marketing Guide To Generational targeting.
How to avoid copyright infringement
When working out whether or not you need to get permission to share someone else’s work, it is important to look at what is still the same, rather than what has been changed. You can get into serious trouble if you are using any important, distinctive or essential part of the original material – whether it is a large portion of that material or not.
Ensure you and your team are aware of these copyright basics, possibly by creating a guide or info sheet. When seeking information or content, seek permission first and credit the owner. And keep in mind that not receiving an answer, doesn’t mean you can go ahead and share whatever post or video you’d like to put on your blog or profile.
Nobody loves a copycat. Besides copyright infringements, you also need to be aware of the dangers of plagiarism and the difference between the two. Images are an easy made mistake. But free images are nowadays available through a range of platforms, so there is really no excuse.
And last but not least, read the terms and conditions before using content, videos and images. There are warnings and indications of how to go about using the information provided.
If you need a hand creating content that is fun to read and keeps you on the right side of the law, get in touch with our hand-picked team of creators and editors. We’ll tell your story in our own words.