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Copyright for Teaching Staff

Copyright information and guidance for teaching and learning

Copyright for Students

A brief introduction to copyright

Copyright is the right to make, keep, adapt and distribute/communicate copies of someone's work.

It covers the "physical" (or electronic) manifestation of ideas, not ideas and information itself.

In order to use third-party material that is covered by copyright, you need permission from the copyright holder (a licence).

Licences can be provided in advance (e.g., Creative Commons, Unsplash). You must follow the conditions of these licences to be covered by them, otherwise you will need to contact the copyright holder to ask for permission to use their work in a way that is not covered by that licence.

In Australian law, "Fair Dealing" and other exceptions allow some use of certain amounts of third-party material without asking for permission - but your use must be covered by the exceptions.

Note: Works can be publicly available while still being covered by copyright. You might find images, music, videos etc. "freely available" online but, unless otherwise noted, those works are mostly likely still covered by copyright and cannot be used without the copyright holder's permission.

What is covered by copyright?

Examples of works covered by copyright include:

Literary works Artistic works Dramatic works Musical works

Including, but not limited to:

  • letters
  • e-mails
  • articles
  • novels
  • poetry
  • song lyrics
  • timetables
  • slide shows
  • databases
  • computer programs

Including, but not limited to:

  • paintings
  • photographs
  • sculptures
  • engravings
  • sketches
  • blueprints
  • drawings
  • plans
  • maps
  • buildings

Including, but not limited to:

  • plays
  • screenplays
  • choreographic works
    (recorded on video or as a choreographic notation)
  • mime routines

Including, but not limited to:

  • musical scores
  • sheet music
  • jingles and ditties
  • melodies

Examples of "subject matter other than works" that are covered by copyright:

  • Sound recordings (music recordings, podcasts, recorded lectures)
  • Films (feature films, documentaries, vodcasts, home movies)
  • Broadcasts (i.e., television or radio broadcasts - not streaming media or video-on-demand, these are covered by recordings, not broadcasts)
  • Published editions of works (i.e., the actual edition of a book/play/sheet music/etc, including the formatting and typographical arrangement)

For more information, see this resource by the Australian Libraries and Archives Copyright Coalition:

Using third-party material in your assignment

What is "third-party material"?

Third-party material is any copyrightable work that you did not create yourself. In assignments, this is most commonly images, video and music, but could be any copyrightable work (see the What is Covered by Copyright box above).

Fair dealing

If you are only using a reasonable amount (not a "substantial" amount) of the third-party material, and it is only being used for your assessment in your course (and will not be accessible by anyone who is not your lecturer or another student enrolled in your course), the Fair Dealing exception for Research or Study will cover your use.

If you are making your work public, you will need to ensure you have permission from the copyright holder to share their work in this way, or make sure that you do not need permission because you are covered by some other licence or exception.

You do not need to seek permission if:

  • There is a licence which permits you to use the work in the way you wish to use it (e.g., a contract, web site conditions/terms of use, Creative Commons licence, the copyright owner has explicitly waived copyright).
  • You are the creator of the work but you have signed copyright ownership over to a third-party (such as a publisher) and you wish to use the work in a way that is permitted in the copyright transfer agreement (also known as a publishing agreement). As an example, the publisher may permit you to load an accepted version to your institutional repository.
  • Your use is covered under fair dealing exceptions.
  • You are including an insubstantial portion.
  • Copyright in the work has expired.

A note on images

You can use an entire image (or a .gif, for electronic submissions) in your assignment under the Research or Study Fair Dealing exception, so long as it is explaining or illustrating a point you are making in your assignment and has been appropriately acknowledged (in an assignment, this will probably be a citation in the style required by your lecturer).

The Fair Dealing exception doesn't cover images used for "decorative" purposes, so you will need to find an image that has a Creative Commons (or similar) licence, which will allow you to use and share the image freely. You will still need to cite your sources, unless the owners of the image state that no attribution is required and your lecturer has agreed it is not necessary.

Be wary of memes, as they frequently use images that have been "stolen". Run a reverse image search to try to determine who the copyright owner for an image is – often, it is a stock image company and the image should be paid for.

On our Open Educational Resources Guide, we link to several sources of freely available or Creative Commons licensed images that you will be able to use without worrying about copyright (as long as you follow the conditions of use).

A note on music

JCU has paid a site licence to cover music used for "educational purposes", which covers the music you add to an assignment or presentation that is used in class. It is important to note that this does not cover material that is accessible outside of JCU systems - so, for example, if you have third-party music on a video that is uploaded into YouTube, that is not covered by JCU's licence (even if the video is unlisted).

On our Open Educational Resources Guide, we link to several sources of music that are freely available (most will require attribution), which you will be allowed to use on a video uploaded to sites like YouTube.

Who owns the copyright on student's assignments?

According to the current JCU Intellectual Property Policy, students own the copyright of all their own original work.

As with all work with more than one author, if a group assignment was written by more than one person, all of the authors retain copyright over the assignment. Should anyone wish to re-use or publish that assignment (or an adaption of it), permission must be obtained from all of the copyright holders.

The conditions of an assignment or an activity may require the student to give the university permission (a licence) to use the student's work, or to assign intellectual property to the university. In this case, the conditions act like terms and agreements and submitting the assignment (or participating in the activity) is agreeing to the terms - however, students should be fully informed and give consent to this condition.

If a student uses third-party software to create all or part of their assignment (e.g., Canva or Adobe), they should check the terms/conditions of use for that software to determine if they have copyright ownership of the work they have created using that software, and if there are any restrictions on what they can do with their content.

Using JCU copiers and scanners

Students may use the JCU copiers and scanners to make copies of material (for example, print material held by the library) for the purposes of Fair Dealing: Research or Study, provided the amount copied does not exceed a "reasonable amount". Students are not permitted to use JCU equipment to make infringing copies of copyrighted works.

Please read the following copyright notice:

Commonwealth of Australia

Copyright Act 1968

Notice about the reproduction of works and the copying of published editions


Copyright owners are entitled to take legal action against persons who infringe their copyright. A reproduction of material that is protected by copyright may be a copyright infringement. Certain dealings with copyright will not constitute an infringement, including:

  • a reproduction that is a fair dealing under the Copyright Act 1968 (the Act), including a fair dealing for the purposes of research or study; or
  • a reproduction that is authorised by the copyright owner.

It is a fair dealing to make a reproduction for research or study, of one or more articles in a periodical publication for the same research or same course of study or, for any other work, of a reasonable portion of a work.

For a published work in hardcopy form that is not less than 10 pages and is not an artistic work, 10% of the number of pages, or one chapter, is a reasonable portion.

For a published work in electronic form only, a reasonable portion is not more than, in the aggregate, 10% of the number of words in the work.

More extensive reproduction may constitute fair dealing. To determine whether it does, it is necessary to have regard to the criteria set out in subsection 40 (2) of the Act.

A court may impose penalties and award damages in relation to offences and infringements relating to copyright material.

Higher penalties may apply, and higher damages may be awarded, for offences and infringements involving the conversion of material into digital or electronic form.


Copyright for students FAQs

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Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International License. Content from this Guide should be attributed to James Cook University Library. This does not apply to images, third party material (seek permission from the original owner) or any logos or insignia belonging to JCU or other bodies, which remain All Rights Reserved.