Copyright for Students - General Information

Students often rely on using copyrighted material in assignments. For example, images or diagrams in an essay or the performance of a drama excerpt in a class drama presentation. The following questions cover key information about copyright that all students should be aware of.

Copyright is a type of intellectual property law that protects a person’s creative skills and labour. It is designed to prevent the unauthorised use by others of a "work" - that is, the original form in which an idea or information has been expressed by the creator. Copyright law also supports a balance for users of copyright materials, by allowing a certain amount of use for certain purposes, such as "fair dealing for research or study".

In general you are the sole owner of your work unless it was a joint creation or a contract with another party was established originally.

As a CQUniversity student, you will own copyright in any works you create such as essays, assignments and your thesis. If someone, including a member of staff, asks for permission to use your assignment or photograph, say on a University website, you should remember that while it may be a great compliment, it is your intellectual property and that you should consider the request carefully. It is always sensible to sign a release form setting out the types of uses permitted and to obtain advice if you have any concerns.

If you produce a work as part of a group project, the copyright will be owned jointly by the members of the group. More information in the CQUniversity's IP Policy

Australia does not have a system of copyright registration. Once your work has been placed in a material form, that is, written down, recorded or filmed, it is protected by copyright.

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, styles or techniques. For example, copyright will not protect an idea for a film or book, but it will protect a script for the film or even a storyboard for the film. Basically, copyright only protects creativity that is in a tangible medium.

The types of works copyright protects include:

  • Artistic Works - paintings, photographs, maps, graphics, cartoons, charts, diagrams and illustrations
  • Literary Works - novels, textbooks, poems, song lyrics, newspaper articles, computer software, computer games
  • Musical Works - melodies, song music, advertising jingles, film scores
  • Dramatic works - plays, screenplays and choreography
  • Films and Moving Images - Feature films, short films, documentaries, television programs, interactive games, television advertisements, music videos and vodcasts
  • Sound Recordings - MP3 files, CDs, DVDs, vinyl and tape recordings, podcasts.
  • Broadcasts - Pay and Free to air television and radio

(Definition from Smartcopying, The Official Guide to Copyright Issues for Australian Schools and TAFE)

In Australia, copyright protection is automatic when new work is created, and there is no register of copyright material. The copyright symbol "©" does not need to be on a work for it to be covered, though this serves to remind others that the work is subject to copyright and that certain rights apply. Some works such as films or musical recordings may contain several copyrights.

General rule in Australia: 70 years from the end of the year in which the creator died or 70 years from the end of the year in which the material was first published.

Before relying on the out-of-copyright status of a work, you should investigate the status of a work. This is outlined in an information sheet entitled 'Duration' on the website of the Australian Copyright Council.

Copyright can't be extended. If copyright in an item has expired it is considered to be in the public domain, and you may use it without seeking permission or needing to comply with the conditions of the Copyright Act.

Unpublished material can have no expiration for copyright.

Copyright owners have the exclusive right to control copying and communication of their works to the public.

This includes:

  • photocopying,
  • scanning,
  • downloading websites and forwarding content by email,
  • performing music in public,
  • translating text,
  • arranging music,
  • or dramatizing literary works.

Any of these actions, without permission of the copyright owner, or outside fair use conditions, would constitute an infringement of copyright.

There are many internet sites offering free downloads of music, TV shows, movies and computer software. Unfortunately, many of these are illegal sites and much of the material on offer is pirated and has been made available without the copyright owner’s permission.

It can be very tempting to download music, movies and TV shows but it is dangerous, as you may be infringing copyright and committing a crime. The movie, music and software industries actively protect their intellectual property and use of file sharing services can be traced easily.

The Acceptable Use of ICT Facilities and Devices Policy prohibits the use of University ICT resources to download and store copyright material which is not properly licensed. The University reserves the right to monitor the use of ICT resources, and penalties can be imposed for improper use of University resources. These can include loss of access to ICT facilities, disciplinary action and even suspension of candidature.

Don’t risk your career by illegal downloading of music, movies and software. Play it safe and use licensed, legal websites when you download.

Remember you can legally copy a CD or recording that you own onto your iPod, MP3 player, hard disk or car stereo for your own private and domestic use under the Copyright Act.

If you want to use someone else’s work, you can generally only use it if:

  • Under Fair Dealing
  • Under free for educational purpose terms or Creative Commons licence.
  • With permission from copyright owner.

The Copyright Act is designed to provide a balance between rewarding creators and ensuring reasonable access by socially worthwhile purposes, such as research or study.

"Fair Dealing for the purposes of research or study" means that you can copy the following:

  • One article from a periodical publication (e.g. journal), or more than one article from the same issue if they relate to the "same research or course of study"
  • One chapter (or 10% of the pages) of a literary, dramatic or musical work (e.g. book, play, sheet music)
  • 10% of the number of words in a literary or dramatic work that is in electronic form
  • A "fair" amount of other types of works and subject matter, such as audio-visual materials, for study purposes (e.g. clips from films).
  • All of an item in an anthology, up to 15 pages.
  • The whole of an artistic work if it illustrates or accompanies text or music copied; or if it has not be published separately; or

For more guidance on what is "fair" see the Australian Copyright Council Infosheet on fair dealing.

One way is to use the Google Advanced search.

Type your search words then select the usage rights (last field) on the page.

You can refine to the file type too.

Once you have results you can:

  • stay in the Google web tab for text,
  • or select the tab images when searching for images,
  • or the video tab for videos.

More information - check this bank of resources on the Open Access & Creative Commons Library Guide.

Print Disability Copyright Guidelines

The Copyright Act 1968 provides for a special copying licence for institutions assisting disabled students, in particular students with vision impairment. The Australian Copyright Council has produced Print Disability Copyright Guidelines which are available for download.

Under certain conditions, universities may be able to make sound recordings, Braille versions, large-print versions, translations and photographic/picture versions of literary or dramatic works for students, without infringing the copyright owner's rights.

However, the university must first make a reasonable investigation (i.e. contact the publishers/vendors) that no such version is commercially available within a reasonable time period at an ordinary commercial price.

All copies made for CQUniversity must be made by the Inclusion and Accessibility Service. Please contact for details.

Note: Students should make themselves familiar with the Copyright Policy at CQUniversity.