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Copyright Compliance in Australian Universities

Using copyright materials for educational purposes in universities - for lecturers, researchers and students


Copyright LogoCopyright is a complex area of law that forms one of the key types of intellectual property that is highly relevant to the day-to-day functions of educational institutions. While copyright protections are primarily designed to allow authors to seek remuneration for their endeavours and create incentives for creativity, conversely such protections also effectively limit the ways in which materials can be used by the general public.  Fortunately, copyright regulations have specific provisions for educational and other purposes to ensure that protections for creative endeavours contribute to serving the public interest.

This Library Guide acts as a quick reference for students, teachers and researchers to determine what is and isn’t permitted under copyright when using materials for educational purposes, whether for instruction, study or research. It succinctly highlights the key points to observe for these types of activities without the need for substantial understanding of copyright concepts or legal frameworks, although they are referenced for further investigation if required.

What is Copyright?

“The exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work)” – Merriam Webster Dictionary

In short, copyright is a bundle of exclusive rights under law given to the author of a work for a specified period of time.  These rights can be assigned or licensed individually so that an author may, for instance, license the reproduction rights to a publisher in order to distribute the work, but retain the adaptation or performance rights for further creative endeavours.


Copyright fits into two main categories:

1) Works Includes literary (text), dramatic (eg script), musical (eg notation, lyrics), artistic, film (ie the original recording) material

Rights to reproduce, publish, perform, adapt etc.

See Section 31, Copyright Act
2) Subject matter other than works Includes sound recordings, cinematographic films, broadcasts, published editions

Rights to copy, communicate, record etc.

See Section 85, 86, 87, 88 Copyright Act, respectively