Copyright is valuable. Works are protected for a long time. There are no registration costs.
In Australia you do not register your copyright works. Your original works are protected upon their creation. That’s it. When you create an original work, copyright subsists in that work the moment it is created. The types of works protected under the Copyright Act are connected to the expression of original ideas or information. You cannot protect an idea itself.
What are “works”?
They include literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works. Also protected are films, TV and sound recordings, sound broadcasts and published editions. Interestingly, if you create an original computer program, that is considered to be a literary work and that too is protected.
What are your rights?
The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to copy, publish, adapt and even licence or assign the works.
What about ownership?
If you are the creator of the works then you will be the owner of the copyright. Which means that if there are two creators then there will be joint ownership. However, it is important to note that if you create works as an employee then your employer will own the copyright. And just to keep thing interesting, if you are a contractor and create copyright works, then in this case, you will be the owner. In the case of published works then the ownership vests in the publisher.
Ownership of copyright works should not be treated lightly, especially in commercial situations. For example, if you request a designer to create a logo for your branding, then before you start using the branding or registering the trade mark for it, it is a good idea to set up an agreement to have the copyright in the logo assigned to you first. That way you own all rights in the elements of the branding.
How long is copyright protected for?
Copyright works are protected for a very long time. Generally speaking, protection lasts for the lifetime of the author, plus 70 years. Sound recordings and films are protected for 70 years from the date of publication. TV and sound broadcasts are protected for 50 years from the broadcast date. Published editions are protected for 25 years from the first publication date.
What are moral rights?
Moral rights protect the reputation of the creator or author of the work. They are personal rights (so non-economic rights) which are protected by the Copyright Act.
What are those rights?
The right to attribution: You, as the creator of the work, have the right to be named as the author.
The right to prevent false attribution: You can stop another person enjoying attribution as the author of your work.
The right to integrity of authorship: You have the right to stop another person doing something derogatory to your work. For example, as an artist you can prevent someone else copying your painting or drawing and doing something offensive with it.
What is derogatory treatment?
It is a material distortion, destruction, mutilation or material alteration to the work which is prejudicial to the author’s honour or reputation. This can include an exhibition which is held in a manner or place which can adversely affect the author’s honour or reputation.
How long are my moral rights protected for?
The same length of time as the copyright in the work. However, the copyright in films only lasts for the lifetime of the author.
What about assigning or licensing my moral rights?
No go. Which can be a good thing. If, for example, you are an employee and you have created work, you may not own the copyright but you will always have moral rights in the work.
Copyrights are valuable and are worth protecting. If you believe that your work has been copied or otherwise used without your permission or you have not been appropriately attributed for your works, then you need to speak to an expert. Our intellectual property team can help.