The Copyright Act 1968 protects the economic rights of a creator and ensures the work is not used without the creator’s permission.

Creators do not need to apply for copyright in Australia. Protection under the Act is free and automatic from the time the work is first recorded in some way (Australian Copyright Council, 2005 p.3).

Duration of copyright

Generally, copyright protection under the Act lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator. For anonymous works, films, sound recordings and works not made public during the creator’s life, copyright protection lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the material was first published. After that time period, copyright has expired and works are said to be in the public domain.

Once in the public domain, material can be used without infringing copyright, and permissions are no longer needed. Keep in mind however that other laws may still apply such as the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

The copyright notice

A copyright notice consists of the symbol ©, followed by the name of the copyright owner and the year of first publication (Australian Copyright Council, 2005 p.3).

copyright symbol

For example: © Queensland University of Technology 2012

For sound recordings, the phonographic copyright symbol Phonographic copyright symbol (an encircled 'P') is used.

For example: Phonographic copyright symbol2003 Virgin Records America, Inc.

In Australia, a copyright notice does not need to be recorded to ensure protection under the Act, however it does remind users that the work is protected and identifies the copyright owner.

Owners’ rights

In Australia, copyright owners have exclusive rights to:

  • reproduce or copy the work
    • For example: photocopy, scan, download
  • make the work public for the first time
  • communicate the work to the public
    • For example: fax, email, broadcast or make available via the internet
  • perform the work in public
    • For example: performing a work live, showing a film or playing a sound recording in public
  • make an adaptation
    • For example: a translation, transcript, dramatised version (Australian Copyright Council, 2005 p.5).

In most circumstances, to avoid copyright infringement, you need to obtain the copyright owner’s permission to use their material in any of the above ways.

The fair dealing provisions in the Copyright Act 1968 provide an exception to this.

Note: If you are using material in Australia, then Australian copyright law applies. Other countries have different copyright laws which apply if you are working or studying in that country.

Australian Copyright Council. (2005). An introduction to copyright in Australia. Retrieved February 17, 2006, from