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What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property law that protects the original expression of ideas. It enables creators to manage how their content is used. 



Limits what you can legally reproduce while an item is in copyright. Reproduce includes copying, scanning, downloading, or saving. 


Copyright in Australia

In Australia, copyright protection is automatic. There is no registration system for copyright under Australian law. Certain forms of expression, such as text, images and music, are automatically covered by copyright under the Copyright Act 1968.

Copyright for Study and Research

In Australia, the fair dealing exceptions in the Copyright Act 1968 allow students and researchers to use a reasonable portion of copyright materials in certain ways without needing to get permission from the copyright owner. This includes fair dealing for research or study, and for criticism or review.

The fair dealing provision for research or study applies to literary works (e.g. books or journal articles), artistic works (e.g. images or photographs), dramatic or musical works and audio-visual material (e.g. sound recordings or films), but does not include computer programs. Strict limits apply on what can be copied.

For research and study you can reproduce:

  • One chapter of a book, or 10% of the pages (10% of the words if the work is in electronic form)
  • One article from a journal or newspaper (more if the articles are for the same assignment)
  • All of an artistic work, for example: diagram or photo (when not available for separate purchase)

This exception is only for your own individual use. You cannot rely on ‘fair dealing’ to share a copy of a work with other people or to reproduce or publish works, without seeking permission.


Copying from the Internet

Material on the internet may be freely available, but it doesn’t mean that you may simply reproduce it without permission. The same limits on a reasonable portion for research or study apply, unless there is a clear copyright statement on the website about how you may use the material.


Copying from Library Databases

Generally, these databases allow the copying limits listed above, but the terms of the database usage agreement may specify or enable other limits, as they are covered by individual licences between the University and the database publishers.

Note: Staff making copies for their students, or reproducing copyright materials as part of their teaching materials, cannot rely on fair dealing exceptions. Copying for teaching purposes is managed through a statutory licence agreement under s113P of the Copyright Act, for which the University pays remuneration to copyright owners via the collecting society Copyright Agency.  For further details, see


Read More

You can read more about using copyright materials for your studies in the following factsheets from the Australian Copyright Council:

What Does Creative Commons Mean?

You might see some items with a Creative Commons (or CC) license. 

Creative Commons License

This is a way the creator has indicated you have certain permissions to share or use their work.

There are different types of CC licenses. The license conditions vary depending on whether or not the creator is happy to have others modify their work or use it for commercial purposes.

In all cases you should acknowledge the creator through an attribution, such as in your reference list in an assessment, or the creator's name and a link back to the source if using an image on a blog post.

Read more about Creative Commons and the different CC licenses in the fact sheet What is Creative Commons?

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Copyright for Lecturers