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It may seem like copyright covers everything but there are things that aren't protected by copyright.
Most people can tell you copyright is about protecting creative works such as books, music, films and art – that is true, copyright protects a lot of material. But there are some things it does not protect, including:
- material in the public domain
- material outside of the scope of copyright
- material protected by other areas of intellectual property (IP)
Material in the public domain
Obviously copyright does not protect material for which copyright protection has expired. Once this has happened the material is described as being in the public domain. Building a rich and diverse pool of freely usable resources is the ultimate goal of copyright. Our information on the duration of copyright includes more detail about the public domain.
Material outside of copyright protection
As noted in our short introduction to copyright internal link, copyright protects an expression not an idea; it is the form or way an idea, information or facts are expressed that is protected.
Copyright does not protect the idea, information or facts themselves.
Copyright also does not protect:
- Concepts, styles or techniques.
- Equations, formulas, recipes.
- Mass produced fashion, utilitarian objects like chairs.
- Single words, names, titles and slogans.
- People and their image.
That said, other areas of law may provide protection for some of these things; for example, in some situations a formula may be registrable under patent law, utilitarian objects that are mass produced may be protected under the Design Act 2003 and competition and consumer law can affect the circumstances in which a person’s image can be used.
Material protected by other areas of IP
Copyright does not protect inventions, brands, utilitarian objects or circuit layouts which are protected by other areas of intellectual property (IP) – patent, trademark, designs, plant breeder’s rights and circuit layouts respectively.
IP Australia is the best place to go for information on these areas of law.