Being aware of copyright infringement  

When sourcing content for your business, it can be tricky to determine what materials you can use without putting your business at risk of copyright infringement. With the internet providing a range of easily accessible sources, it can be easy to forget about the legalities of using material you did not produce yourself.

Just because material is published on the internet for anyone to see, doesn’t mean that its copyright is waived. Copyright guidelines can usually be found on a website’s ‘terms of use’ page.

In Australia, the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) covers all sorts of sources including text, videos, images, audio, icons, artwork, maps, and computing programs. It protects the rights of an owner to profit from their content, prevents unauthorised use of their material and enables them to recover damages if their material has been used without permission.

Copyright protection is automatically applied, in Australia, to written and artistic works from the time it was originally created and generally exists from the publication date until 70 years after the owner’s death.

Infringement will occur if a substantial amount of the copyrighted material is used without the permission of the owner. A substantial amount isn’t necessarily just about how much of the material is copied. Even if only a small amount is reproduced, it can still constitute copyright infringement depending on the quality of the content copied. This includes how important the content is, how distinctive and recognisable it is to the original, and the level of skill and amount of time required to create it.

The owner’s permission must be obtained before using, reproducing, or disseminating copyrighted material. Unauthorised use of this material can result in penalties or remedies for the damage caused. This could include:

  • Financial penalties of up to $585 000 for corporations.
  • Financial penalties of up to $117 000 for individuals.
  • Imprisonment of up to 5 years for individuals.
  • Awarding damages for any losses suffered.
  • Accounting for any profits made.
  • Injunctions preventing any further use of the material.

It is useful to note that copyright does not protect ideas, but the way in which they are expressed. This means that you can work with the concepts of someone else’s material for your own individual creation, so long as you do not copy it outright.

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