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Copyright protection is designed to facilitate the commercial exploitation of creativity.
Broadly, copyright protects literary works (books, magazine articles, etc), dramatic works (theatre and dance), music (songs, compositions, etc), artistic works (paintings, drawings, photographs, etc), films, sound recordings and broadcasts.
There are also some general requirements that must be met for any material to be protected. If you are unfamiliar with those requirements you should read that information first.
Part III of the Copyright Act relates to works. Under the Act, copyright protects original:
These terms may seem straightforward but what can fall under each type range from obvious to obscure. The sections below look at each type of work in more detail and provide some examples of materials that fall within each type of work.
Basically anything reduced to writing which is not trivial in content is a literary work. This includes books – both fictional texts such as novels and novellas and nonfiction texts such as textbooks, technical manuals, instructional manuals, usage guides, government reports, annual reports and other documents. Literary works also include manuscripts.
Literary works can also include:
- Articles published in newspapers, magazines, periodicals and journals
- Anthologies, compilations and collections of written works
- Essays, dissertations and theses
- Poetry, verse and song lyrics
- Letters, emails, memos, notes, SMS text messages, etc
- Text published on websites (including blog posts, Facebook status updates, tweets on Twitter, etc)
- Flyers, brochures, pamphlets, catalogues and other advertising material.
- Computer programs.
- In some situations a compilation of information such as a database, catalogue or directory
Dramatic works are any work that is intended to be performed dramatically. Dramatic works may be:
- Dance, choreography and movement, though it must be recorded in a video or as choreographic notation
- Stage plays, puppetry, pantomimes, mime and other theatrical performances
- Film treatments.
The Copyright Act does not define ‘musical work’. However it is taken to encompass the melody of the song. As such, a musical work may include:
- Musical scores for performance by bands, orchestras, ensembles and other musical acts
- Musical scores that are part of a concert, opera, etc
- Songs, jingles, ditties, lullabies and hymns
- Instrumental music.
Where a song also includes lyrics they are typically considered a literary work and are protected separately to the musical work. If the music has been recorded then the sound recording will also be protected separately.
The Copyright Act provides a list of things that are considered artistic works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings, photographs. It also mentions buildings and models of buildings. Drawings includes diagrams, maps, charts or plans, while engravings includes etchings, lithographs, products of photogravure, woodcuts, prints and the like.
Some material such as embroidery, handmade ceramics and handmade jewellery may also be an artistic work if they are not mass produced, they possess an artistic quality and craftsmanship was involved in their creation. These types of works are referred to as works of artistic craftsmanship in the Act.
Subject-matter other than works
Sounds stored on recording media such as cassette tapes, CDs or computer hard drives are sound recordings and attract copyright protection. A sound recording is protected separately to any underlying works they include, such as the song or composition. They are protected regardless of the format in which they were recorded, exported as or later converted into.
Sound recordings may include:
- Recordings of music and songs
- Recordings of a live performance, such as dance or theatre, reading a literary work aloud or an expression of folklore
- Recordings of lectures, seminars, workshops and other presentations as well as interviews, conversations and oral histories
- Podcasts and audio on websites
- Instructional sound recordings
- Soundscapes and field recordings of natural or urban environments
The visual images and soundtrack that together comprise a film are protected by copyright, separately to any underlying works like the script. They are protected regardless of the format in which they were recorded, exported as or later converted into.
Films may include:
- Feature films
- Television programs (separate to the broadcast)
- Animation and animated and moving image cartoons
- Short films, video clips, mobile phone footage, etc
- Video and moving image advertising including promotional trailers
- Vodcasts and video on websites such as web series and YouTube videos
- Instructional videos
- Some multimedia products such as video games.
The Copyright Act protects television and sound broadcasts (i.e. radio broadcasts) separate to any copyright material they include, such as a television or radio program.
The protection for broadcasts extends to broadcasts on television and radio, and includes both free-to-air and subscription services, but not streaming services.
Published editions of works
A published edition relates to the typographical arrangement that makes up the layout and formatting of a page as published. A book is probably the most obvious example of a published edition – the font selection and font sizing and weight, typesetting, pagination, cover design and other elements that make up the look and feel of that published version of the book make up the published edition. The same story may be published in another book with their own design, but the layout of existing editions cannot be replicated. Published editions can also be of dramatic (e.g. plays), musical (e.g. sheet music) and artistic (e.g. catalogues) works.
Layers of copyright in material
It is worth noting that material may incorporate multiple copyright protected works and/or subject-matter other than works. These underlying works create layers of copyright protection in the same item. For example:
- Books – includes the story is a literary work and the layout of the book as a published edition. If the book includes photographs, artworks, drawings, diagrams and tables, each will be protected separately as an artistic work. So is any artwork or photographs included on the covers.
- Translations – includes the original story as a literary work, and the translated version as a separate literary work.
- Sound recordings of songs – includes a musical work and a literary work if there are lyrics. The sound recording itself is also protected. And the musicians performing the song will also have performer’s rights.
- An album – each track is protected both as a musical work and a sound recording. If each song also includes lyrics, each set of lyrics are literary works. Plus the album cover and booklet may include literary and artistic works such as a written statement, artwork and band photography. If you consider that your average album has around 12 tracks, all with these multiple layers, the number of copyright works can build up quickly!
- Films – the film is protected in its own right, but it is very likely the film will also incorporate other copyright material such as music (where each song is a musical work and a sound recording), other sounds, artwork, photography or clips from other films or broadcasts and the script as a literary work.
There is also one final category of copyright material worth mentioning: Crown copyright. Crown copyright is any original works, sound recordings or films:
- made by the State
- made under the direction or control of the State or
- first published in Australia by the State.
All copyright protection for Crown copyright material is owned by the Crown.
What material isn't protected by copyright?
It may seem like copyright covers everything but there are things that aren’t protected by copyright. To learn more about what isn’t protected see: Material not protected by copyright.