What Is A Copyright Licence and When Should I Use One?
If your business intends to reuse images, text or music from the public domain, it is likely that your business requires a copyright licence to use those materials. For instance, without a valid copyright licence, your business could face civil and criminal penalties if it reproduces copyrighted material without permission. This article outlines:
- what copyright is;
- how to know if something is protected by copyright;
- what copyright licences are; and
- instances when copyright licences should be used.
What Is Copyright?
Copyright prevents people from copying or communicating material without the permission of the copyright owner. Copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects original works such as novels, songs, films and computer software. However, it does not protect ideas.
For example, copyright can protect the script for an upcoming film but not the idea for the film itself.
What Does Copyright Protect?
Under Australian copyright law, copyright protection is automatic and does not require registration. This means that creative material will be protected as soon as it is put into material form through writing or recording. Materials with copyright protection are likely to have copyright notices. These notices are usually printed on copyright works and include the:
- ‘©’ symbol;
- work’s date of creation; and
- creator’s name.
However, not all copyright materials will have copyright notices. Even where an image or an article does not have a copyright notice, this does not mean that the copyright owner has abandoned their exclusive rights to their original work under copyright law.
For this reason, it is important to acquire a copyright licence before you decide to reproduce copyrighted material.
What Are Copyright Licences?
For example, a copyright licence might specify that an image can only be used in a magazine over a period of three months.
The type of licence you will need depends on:
- the material you want to use;
- how you want to use the material; and
- the type of organisation you represent.
While there are numerous types of copyright licences that range from government-issued licences to licences applied to schools and universities, the most commonly used licence by businesses is a commercial copyright access licence.
- newspaper and magazine articles;
- journal articles, books and industry updates; and
- research data, competitive analysis, survey plans and maps.
When Should You Use a Commercial Licence?
If your business wants to reuse any of the materials listed above for its own purposes, a commercial licence is necessary to avoid copyright infringement. When it obtains a commercial licence, a business can reuse copyrighted materials by:
- copying materials (either hardcopy and digital);
- printing materials;
- sharing copies within your business;
- external sharing via your business’ website and social media accounts; and
- storing digital or maintaining archive copies.
Acquiring a Commercial License
You can apply for a commercial licence via the Australian Business Licence and Information Service. When you apply, the application form requires you to provide certain information, including:
- which type of licensee you are (this refers to whether you intend to reuse the copyrighted material for a non-profit, educational or for-profit organisation);
- which specific material you would like to reproduce; and
- how you will reuse the material (this refers to the period of time in which the material will be reproduced and the geographical distribution of the material).
Once you complete this, the relevant costs will be determined.
What Is Copyright Infringement?
A copyright infringement can occur if you reuse copyrighted material without permission from the copyright owner or a valid copyright licence. An infringement can occur regardless of whether you made some changes to the original or whether you made a profit from using the material. A copyright owner can commence court proceedings against a person who infringes their copyright.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. The author must still give you permission to copy their article even though you have attributed the article to the author.
If you use an important part of the copyright owner’s work, it is likely that you will need permission from them even if you make some changes.