Why Knowing The Basics Of Copyright Law Is Advantageous

There are numerous businesses whose owners or CEOs may seek advice, guidance, and on occasion, representation, from their commercial lawyers at Culshaw Miller Lawyers, concerning copyright law. Not every business type will require advice on copyright law due to the types of products that they make, but all businesses must be aware of how to comply with copyright law or risk falling foul of those copyright laws and having criminal or civil action taken against them.

It is not just businesses that need to comply, as individuals can break copyright law too. In both cases, that breach is likely to be one of several ways in which copyright law can be broken. These include copying, scanning, or printing protected material, publicly communicating protected works, or being renumerated for works for which you do not hold the copyright.

On the flip side, if a business is more likely to be a victim of copyright infringement rather than a perpetrator of them, it needs to know what copyright law protects, and how it protects them.

In Australia, there is no requirement for anyone or any entity, such as a business, to register their copyright for any “works” they have produced. Note that “works” is the catch-all term for anything capable of being copyrighted.

Instead of registering a copyright, the mere fact that you have created a work means your copyright protection starts from the instant of its creation. You do not even need to add the copyright symbol to your material for copyright protection to apply, however, it is best practice to add it anyway to deter those who may wish to steal your works.

Works can include anything written, drawn, recorded, or created by “the expression of an idea”. It is also worth pointing out the importance of the words “expression of” because copyright does not extend to the idea itself, only the work produced from the idea.

Specific examples of works that can be copyrighted are:

  • Written: Books, Articles, Blog Posts, Reports, Poems, Scripts, Song Lyrics, Musical Score, Product Manuals
  • Audio Recordings: Spoken Word, Music, Singing, Audio Lessons/Courses
  • Video Recordings: Courses, Films, TV Programmes, Corporate Videos
  • Images: Photographs, Drawings, Cartoons, Paintings, Infographics
  • Computing: Software Apps, Programming Code, Website Templates, Websites, Databases
  • Business: Product Blueprints, Architectural Drawings/Plans, Annual Reports, Business Communications (Email, Letters)

Although your works are protected from the breaches we mentioned above, there are some exceptions that you should be aware of. These exceptions allow the use of your works or parts of them for a small number of legitimate reasons. These are:

  • Reporting News
  • Research
  • Studying
  • Satire
  • Parody
  • Reviews
  • Critiques

Within these exceptions, further rules govern how they apply. For example, research would only be deemed as legitimate within educational or research settings, and reporting news would only apply to genuine journalistic use rather than someone simply posting your written material on their blog with a different title and claiming they were reporting on it.

The penalties for infringement of copyright law can be severe. In addition, you can start civil proceedings against the infringer. Fines range from 200 AUD to 150,000 AUD for each work that has had its copyright infringed. Serious offences can result in imprisonment of up to 5 years. In addition, a civil action could see an award of compensation, and the court could also award you damages for flagrant breaches of your copyrights by the offender.