Skip to main content

Copyright protected material

Protecting works and other material

The Copyright Act sets out two broad categories of materials protected by copyright: “works” and “subject matter other than works”.


  • Literary works
    Books; letters; articles in journals, newspapers and magazines; poems; assignments; theses; song lyrics; computer programs; tables or compilations expressed in words, figures or symbols
  • Dramatic works
    Plays; film scripts; choreography
  • Musical works
    Notated music (ie the music itself, not the lyrics or recording)
  • Artistic works
    Photos; paintings; drawings; maps; sculptures; engravings

Subject matter other than works

  • Sound recordings
    Recordings of spoken words or music (This is protected separately from any copyright material contained in the recordings (eg scripts and music))
  • Films
    The aggregate of the visual images and sounds in DVDs; videos; TV programs; TV advertisements; short films; full length theatrical films (This is protected separately from any copyright material recorded in that material (eg scripts and music))
  • Broadcasts
    TV and radio broadcasts (This is protected separately from the copyright in music, scripts and other material that is broadcast)
  • Published editions
    Typographical arrangements of published works (This is protected separately from the copyright material reproduced in the published edition (eg novels and photos))

For a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work to be protected by copyright, it must also be an “original work” in the sense that it originates from the author (ie it is not a mere copy of another work) and the author has used the requisite degree of labour, skill and effort to create the work.

This information is provided as general information only. It provides a basic introduction to copyright and is not intended to be comprehensive.

Reviewed December 2017

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that this website may contain images, voices and names of people who have died.

The University of Sydney Library acknowledges that its facilities sit on the ancestral lands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have for thousands of generations exchanged knowledge for the benefit of all. Learn more