This page contains information for owners of copyright material in Australia. You can find more detailed information in the short guide to copyright.
How do you obtain copyright protection?
Copyright protection is free and automatic in Australia. There is no formal registration system. Some websites offer copyright protection or to 'register' copyright for a fee. These websites have no authority to guarantee copyright protection in Australia.
How long does copyright protection last?
Generally copyright lasts for 70 years for works after the death of the author, and 70 years from publication for sound recordings and films after being made public, and 50 years for television and radio broadcasts after being broadcast.
Copyright duration can differ depending on the type of copyright material and if it has been made public.
When copyright expires, the material falls into the 'public domain' and may be freely used.
For information on the duration for a specific type of material, please see our Duration of Copyright table.
What does copyright protect?
Copyright provides legal protection for people who express original ideas and information in certain forms. The most common forms are writing, visual images, music and moving images.
Copyright does not protect ideas or information, only the original expression of ideas or information. Copyright does not prevent someone else from independently producing the same work.
Copyright does not usually protect names and titles, as these are not considered original enough.
What are the rights of a copyright owner?
The Copyright Act gives copyright owners a number of exclusive economic rights. These rights vary depending on the type of subject-matter. Generally, a copyright owner has:
- the right to reproduce the material in a material form
- the right to publish the material
- the right to publicly perform the material
- the right to communicate the material to the public (that is, make the material available online or electronically transmit the material to the public, including by broadcasting)
Copyright owners may give permission to other people to exercise these rights. See 'Can copyright be bought and sold in Australia' for more information.
The Copyright Act also provides authors and performers with certain non-economic rights known as moral rights:
- the rights to attribution of authorship and performance of one's material
- the rights against false attribution of authorship and performance
- the rights of integrity of authorship and performance
Moral rights apply to all creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, film-makers (producers, directors and screenwriters) and also to performers for their live performances and the sound recording of their performances. Moral rights may not be assigned or licenced to another person.
How can copyright be enforced?
A copyright owner can approach a person infringing copyright to seek redress.
Where enforcement is required, a copyright owner should seek legal advice before enforcing their copyright in the court system.
Can copyright be bought and sold in Australia?
Copyright can be dealt with in the same way as other forms of personal property. It can be assigned, licenced (exclusively or non-exclusively), given away, sold, left after death (by will or otherwise), or passed on following bankruptcy. This does not apply to moral rights, which creators cannot transfer or assign.
Is Australian copyright material protected overseas?
Often, Australian copyright material is protected overseas. A key factor is whether the overseas territory is a party to one of the relevant copyright conventions to which Australia is also a party. A list of the conventions can be found on the Copyright Policy page .