Copyright Lawyers | Greyson Legal
Copyright is a form of IP which provides a way of protecting a person’s original expression of their ideas. For example, an artist who paints a picture would own the copyright in the picture they created.
Generally, the initial person to create the relevant work is the copyright owner. However, there are exceptions, for example, in an employer/employee relationship where the work undertaken by the employee is part of their job, then the copyright in the work would be owned by the employer. Well drafted employment agreements will contain terms and conditions which deal with this issue.
It is possible for two or more people to own copyright in material. For example, if two authors collaborated to write a book – they would each share the copyright rights in the material.
We recently provided legal assistance to Tam Sainsbury and Gemini Arts & Media regarding their dealings with Screen Australia relating to copyright and general intellectual property rights in connection with the web series/TV production: "Time & Place", being filed in Caloundra and the Sunshine Coast.
On a different matter, we provided legal advice to a Redcliffe musician client related to copyright and general intellectual property rights related to the recording and licensing of various music lyrics and audio.
As part of our Franchise legal practice, we provide legal advice and assistance to our Franchisor clients in relation to copyright as it applies to the establishment and maintenance of theirfranchise systems.
Copyright is an intangible right (as opposed to a physical or tangible property right). As an intangible “thing” it is incapable of being physically perceived.
For example, while a painting has a physical or tangible element, for example, you can see the painting and touch the painting, the copyright in the painting and the artist's rights associated with it are intangible forms of property.
Copyright does not exist in an idea as per se. Rather, copyright subsists in, and protects expressions of ideas. For example, just because you might come up with the idea that a house should contain four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a verandah, does not mean you have copyright in that idea. However, if an architect designed plans for a house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a verandah, the architect would own the copyright in the plans incorporating the architect’s design.
Examples of Copyright
Common examples of material or “works” that can be protected through copyright include:
- Literary, eg.books;
- Newspapers and magazines;
- Computer programs/code;
- Television broadcasts
In Australia, the Copyrights Act 1968 (Cth) provides the statutory framework for protection.
Under the Act, the works must be:
- in a material form (eg. in writing (like a book) or by way of a painting, etc); and
- a new creation (ie. be original – not copied).
Copyright provides a legal right in the copyright owner to prevent others from doing certain things such as copying and plagiarising the copyright owner’s works without the permissions from the copyright owner.
Copyright in the works is automatic from the time it is first recorded, written down, painted or drawn, filmed or taped.
There is no system of registration for copyright protection in Australia.
Some copyright owners use the symbol © or the words "Copyright” or “Copyright reserved” to inform people of their rights in that work.
Or they may adopt a Copyright Notice. A Copyright Notice typically would include the © symbol, the name of the creator and the year the work was created.
Term of Copyright
Generally, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator, or 70 years from the end of the year the material was first made public.
Assignment and Licensing
Copyright gives the owner exclusive rights to that particular work. However, a copyright owner can choose to either assign their IP right to another person or license others to, for example, copy, publish or broadcast the owner’s work.
A Licence Agreement would normally be entered into to formalise the terms and conditions of such use.
It is also possible to “gift” copyrighted material to another through a Will.
Permission and Copying
Generally, copyright law operates to prevent people from copying or reproducing other peoples’ creations in any material form, without first obtaining their consent.
However, the Act allows for a number of situations (“exceptions”) where copyrighted material can be used without the need to obtain the copyright owner’s permission. For example, the use of copyrighted material for research or educational purposes, provided the use is fair.
Individual creators of material also have what is known as “moral rights” (irrespective of whether copyright is also attached to the material).
These include the:
- right to be attributed as the creator of the work;
- right to take action if their work is falsely attributed as being someone else’s work;
- right to take action of their work is altered in a way that is detrimental to their reputation.