Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property includes registered trade marks, designs, information, printed materials, works of art, photographs digital works and a whole variety of other things.

Logos, words and phrases can be registered as a trade mark provided the mark is distinctive of the goods or services of the business registering the trade mark. Registration allows the owner of the trade mark to take action to prevent use of the trade mark without permission. If a trade mark is unregistered the owner can still take action if the trade mark has been used in a way that has lead consumers to be deceived.

The author of any writing, sound recording, television broadcast, video, drawing or photograph is protected by the Copyright Act 1968 provided the ‘artistic’ work was first published in Australia and the author is an Australian citizen. Copyright exists for the life of the author plus 50 years. There is no need to register Copyright as it arises automatically.

To become an owner of a copyright which has been created by a commercial artist or a company which developed some artistic work, a sporting organisation should seek a transfer of ownership of the copyright from the original author.

Under the Designs Act 1906 any new or novel shape, design or pattern may be registered. Registration give protection and rights to a monopoly of the design to the designer for up to 16 years.


In Australia, copyright law is currently prescribed by the Copyright Act 1968.

Copyright exists to promote learning, culture and the free flow of information, knowledge and ideas.

Copyright also provides the creators of the information, knowledge and ideas with rights to control certain uses of their works, thereby empowering them to sell or license those rights for a fee.

Copyright is a legally enforceable right conferred by the Commonwealth Copyright Act 1968 on the author (creator) of a work in material form. It is an exclusive right to reproduce the work, to publish the work, to perform the work in public, to broadcast the work and to make an adaptation of the work. Any infringement or threat of infringement of the right can be stopped or prevented by the copyright owner

Copyright legislation is designed to provide a balance between rewarding creators for their works whilst ensuring a reasonable level of access for the public good.

What is covered by copyright?

The Copyright Act makes a distinction for protected material in two broad categories, namely "Works" (literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works) and "subject matter other than Works" (sound recordings, films, broadcasts and published editions). Copyright in subject matter other than works is separate to any copyright which may subsist already in the works, such as a musical work recorded in the sound recording or a screen play recorded in a film.

Four categories of works and four categories of subject matter other than works currently apply.

The four categories of works are:

Dramatic Film scripts; plays; screenplays and other works intended to be performed, such as choreographic works.
Literary Books; catalogs; computer programs; journal articles; manuals; poems; short stories; song lyrics and all other forms of writing
Musical Popular and serious scores and other combinations of melody and/or harmony. In the case of song, the lyrics are separately protected as a literary work.
Artistic Cartoons; diagrams; drawings; engravings; flowcharts; maps; plans; paintings; patterns; photographs; sculptures etc., and works of artistic craftsmanship such as carvings; ceramics; pottery etc.

The four categories of subject matter other than works are :

Broadcasts Radio, television and certain satellite broadcasts, that is, sounds and/or images transmitted by a broadcaster.
Cinematographic Films Motion pictures, including documentaries, feature and animated films; television programs; videocassettes and other fixed or recorded sequences of visual images.
Published Editions of Works The layout, design and typesetting of the publisher of a work.
Sound Recordings Audiotapes; vinyl, acetate and compact discs and other fixed or recorded sounds.

Playing music in public places

All music performed or played from a recording in public places is governed by copyright law. There are often two copyrights in force:

  1. The copyright in the music or lyrics
  2. The copyright in the music recording

It would be impractical for people to obtain permission from the owner of copyright for each musical work they play.

Instead persons and/or businesses that use music must apply for a licence to the following organisations:

The Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA) is an organisation set up to provide licences to:

Licences are provided to musicians for a fee that is usually a percentage of their performance fee. The money collected from licences goes to musicians and composers of music

Similarly the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Ltd (PPCA) provides licences:

There are over 35,000 venues in Australia, including clubs, hotels, bars, restaurants, fitness centers, shops, halls and dance studios, radio and TV stations.

Duration Of Copyright

The table below outlines the current terms for copyright protection in Australia:

Type of material

Duration of copyright protection

Literary, dramatic and musical works published in the authors' lifetime, other than engravings

50 years after the death of the last author to die

Literary, dramatic and musical works that have not been published, performed or broadcast in the authors' lifetime

50 years from the first publication, performance or broadcast, i.e., copyright could be perpetual

Engravings first published after the author's death; literary, dramatic and musical works, engravings in which copyright is owned by the government; films and sound recordings made after 1 May 1969; and works first published anonymously

50 years from first publication

Artistic works (except engravings), photographs taken after 1 May 1969, sound recordings made before 1 May 1969 and broadcast signals

50 years after making

Most foreign published works and films

Period of protection in country of origin


20 years from recording

Typographical arrangements (published edition)

25 years after publication

Fair Dealing and Copyright

The fair dealing provisions of the Copyright Act are an exception to the exclusive rights of copyright owners. They allow some copying for certain purposes to be done for free without infringing copyright. There are three main categories of copying which fall under the fair dealing provisions:



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