Copyright is a type of intellectual property right which is meant to act as an incentive to keep people creating.
It refers to a set of exclusive economic rights that give authors/creators control over what happens to their work. These rights include the right to:
Copyright is automatic as soon as the original work is created. It is not necessary to register copyright in Australia. However, copyright does not last forever. Different types of work have different periods of duration and duration varies from country to country.
As a student, you can rely on what’s called ‘fair dealing for research or study’.
This exception allows you to reproduce limited copyright material both for your own reference and in your assignments. The guidelines for text and notated (sheet) music are:
You can also reproduce images and other media in your coursework, but the use must be ‘fair’.
In order for the exception to apply, your work (assignments, etc.) must only be available to you, your classmates and your instructors for assessment in that course of study.
Note that this is different for research students - you should refer to Copyright & Research for more information.
Surely copyright doesn't exist on the internet?
It sure does! Material (including text, documents, reports, photos, music, movies, etc) on websites and other online platforms is protected by copyright in the same way as more traditional media such as books. The internet is just another form of publishing.
Just because something is freely available online does not mean it’s ‘in the public domain’ and is free to use. Always assume material you find online is protected by copyright.
What do I do if I want to use my work outside of class?
If you have an assignment, paper, or other work, that you would like to post online (including posting a copy to the UniSC Research Bank), publish in any format, present at a conference, or make available to a potential audience (as opposed to just your classmates and instructors in that course of study), then you may need to seek permission from the copyright owner to include their content.
Is there any alternative to seeking permission?
A good habit to get into is to look for Creative Commons or other similarly open licensed material, as this can help remove some of the copyright and permissions issues. You can often find Creative Commons images that will suit your needs. There is a required format for attribution, but it’s not difficult.
Whenever you use or present the thoughts or works of others, you must acknowledge or reference that work. Acknowledgment is actually required by legislation and is called a creator’s ‘moral right’. You must acknowledge your sources, regardless of what you are doing with the material - even if it's ‘non-commercial’.
There is no defined level of change that will make material yours. If what you've created is substantially similar to the original, you may need to seek permission to use it outside the classroom. If what you've created is obviously derived from someone else's material, you may need to seek permission to use it outside the classroom. Regardless of how you use it, the creator must always be acknowledged.
Copyright applies as soon as work has been created in a form that can be recognised or reproduced - it does not matter if it has been published or not. However, the duration of copyright in unpublished material may be affected.
What about copyright in my work?
As a student, you own copyright in material you create as part of your studies. If an instructor (or anyone else) wants to use your work in their teaching, or in any other way, they must get your permission (ideally in writing). However, if you are a research student and have signed a funding or research agreement, the terms of the agreement will dictate copyright ownership. You should check any agreements and also the university's Intellectual Property - Governing Policy for more information.