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Copyright for Researchers

This guide contains copyright advice for JCU research staff and students

About this guide

There are many ways that copyright intersects with research activities, including creating a work, incorporating third-party content in a scholarly work, signing author publishing agreements, sharing and promoting your outputs, incorporating copyright protected materials in HDR theses, and much more.

This guide provides copyright information and links, but not legal opinion, which is relevant to research staff and students in the University community. For copyright matters not covered in this Guide, including copyright surveys, licenses and breaches of copyright, contact the University Copyright Officer.  Help is also available from the organisations listed in the External Copyright Contacts box on the left.

Introduction to copyright

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

Copyright covers original literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works, and recordings:

  • Literary = most written forms (e.g. letters, journal articles, slide shows, computer programs)
  • Artistic = other tangible creative forms (e.g. drawings, sculpture, photographs, plans)
  • Dramatic = works intended to be performed by words or actions (e.g. plays, screenplays, dance, mime, song lyrics)
  • Musical = works intended to be performed, exclusive of words and actions (e.g. sheet music, melodies, orchestral scores)
  • Matter other than works = published editions (e.g, an edition of a book, or an arrangement of sheet music), recordings (e.g. music recordings, film recordings) and broadcasts.

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

Copyrightable Not copyrightable

Manifestations of ideas such as:

  • Literary works in print or electronic format
  • Artworks or performances
  • Film or sound recording
  • Any tangible product of human endeavour that is original

(NB: These may be covered by other forms of IP protection, such as trademarks or patents)

  • Ideas not yet in a tangible form
  • Facts or information
  • Styles or techniques
  • Names, titles or slogans

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.

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:

Exceptions and fair dealing

Free to use

What is a "substantial part"?

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country

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.