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How to use copyright material

Respect copyright owners’ property

Copyright is infringed if copyright material is used in any of the ways within the exclusive control of the copyright owner without their permission, unless an exception applies. Any use of copyright material must be acknowledged in accordance with moral rights obligations.

Further information on some of the exceptions and when to obtain permission from the copyright owner is set out below.

Insubstantial parts
  • Copyright will generally not be infringed if an insubstantial part of the copyright material is used. A part will be considered “substantial” if it is an essential, vital or material part of the copyright material. It will depend on the circumstances of each case whether a part is so important that permission is required to use it. Consideration needs to be given to the importance the part bears to the copyright material as a whole.

    The quality of the part is more important than the quantity used from the copyright material. The part may be substantial even if it is a small proportion of all of the copyright material.

Fair dealing
  • There are a number of fair dealing exceptions in the Copyright Act. This section lists the fair dealing exceptions most relevant to University staff and students.

    A fair dealing with copyright material for the following purposes will not infringe copyright:

    In each of these cases the dealing with the copyright material must be fair. This will depend on the circumstances of each case. The fair dealing exception should only be relied on if the person using the copyright material has the requisite fair dealing purpose.

Flexible dealing
  • The flexible dealing exception was introduced into the Copyright Act to allow copyright material to be used by libraries, archives and educational institutions in certain circumstances and for specified purposes, provided the use is not covered by another Copyright Act exception.

    This is a complex exception to apply in practice and University staff and students should not rely on the exception without first discussing the matter with Copyright Services.

Statutory licence for educational purposes
  • The Copyright Act contains a statutory licence under which the University can copy and communicate works and broadcasts for educational purposes subject to a number of conditions. The statutory licence is set out in section 113P of the Copyright Act.

    Under the educational statutory licence, text (except for computer programs), images, notated music, and radio and television broadcasts can be copied and communicated by University staff for educational purposes.

    Further information about the educational statutory licence is set out in Copyright for educators.

Exceptions for in class performances of copyright material
  • There are a number of exceptions for in class activities, including:

    • performing literary, dramatic and musical works
    • screening films (eg from DVDs and videos; streaming from websites that permit the in class screening of films)
    • playing sound recordings (eg from CDs; streaming from websites that permit the sound recording to be played in class)

    To rely on the exceptions, the activity must be in the course of educational instruction that is not given for profit; the performance, screening or playing must be given or done by the teacher or a student; and the audience must be limited to persons taking part in the instruction or otherwise directly connected with the place where the instruction is given.

    Further information about these exceptions is set out in Copyright for educators.

Other exceptions for educational instruction
  • Other exceptions in the Copyright Act for using copyright material for educational instruction include:

    • teachers and students copying works by hand, or making an adaptation or copying that adaptation by hand, in the course of educational instruction (eg copying on a blackboard, whiteboard, overhead transparencies), a reproduction device such as a photocopier cannot be used
    • copying or communicating any copyright material, or making an adaptation or copying or communicating that adaptation, in connection with exams (applies to electronic or hardcopy exam questions and answers)

    Further information about these exceptions is set out in Copyright for educators.

Public domain
  • Once the copyright term has expired, the copyright material is in the public domain and is no longer protected by copyright. Copyright permission is not needed for the material that is out of copyright.
Copyright owner’s permission
  • If an exception does not apply, permission must be obtained from the copyright owner to use copyright material in any of the ways within the exclusive control of the copyright owner. The University has entered into licence agreements with a variety of rights holders to allow University staff and students to use copyright material controlled by them subject to certain conditions. Examples include:

    If the University has not obtained a licence that applies to a proposed use by University staff and students, permission will need to be obtained from the copyright owner.

    In some instances, however, the copyright material you want to use may be available under a Creative Commons licence that permits your use. Always check the terms and conditions applying to the licence and make sure you comply with them.

Creative Commons material
  • What is Creative Commons?

    Creative Commons (CC) is a licensing tool that allows copyright owners to release material under certain conditions.

    There are four licence conditions the copyright owner can apply to their material:

    • Attribution (abbreviated to “BY”) – requires the user to attribute the creator of the material (and any other nominated person). This condition is mandatory for all CC licences
    • ShareAlike (SA) – requires the user to release the material under the same licence as the original if modifications have been made
    • NonCommercial (NC) – restricts use to non-commercial purposes
    • NoDerivatives (ND) – restricts the user from making any modifications to the original (including cropping images and translating text)

    The Library recommends selecting material with “CC BY” or “CC BY-SA” licences because these licences give maximum flexibility.

    Alternatively, copyright owners may choose to release their material under a public domain dedication, also known as a “CC0” licence. Here the copyright owner is giving everyone permission to use the work, and is not placing any restrictions on how it can be used. There is no requirement to attribute this material, however, it’s recommended to always attribute in accordance with standard academic practice.

    Attributing the creator

    The Copyright Act requires creators of works and films to be attributed in a reasonable manner. It is also good academic practice to acknowledge the source of the material.

    An attribution should include the title, the author and a hyperlink to the source. If the copyright owner requests a specific attribution, it is generally a condition of using their material that you apply their attribution. For Creative Commons material, information about the CC licence, and any alterations made to the original, will also need to be included. An attribution will be reasonable if it is on or next to the material (eg under an image) or in the end credits for a video (see also Creative Commons Australia’s Attributing Creative Commons Materials information sheet).

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

Reviewed September 2019

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