Australian Copyright


The following essay will be on the effect ‘fair dealing’ has on the Australian Copyright Act. The focus will be on the use of ‘fair dealing’ for ‘research or study’ done by students in relation to the internet. To begin with copyright in general will be discussed. Then copyright law will be analysed focusing on the exemption of ‘fair dealing’ in relation to ‘research or study’ on the internet. Understanding how to use ‘fair dealing’ is important for students at all levels of education.


Copyright in Australia is a federal legislation and applies nationally. The laws are set out in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 and infringements are decided by the courts. That is, the courts interpret and apply copyright (ACC 2004, p.1). Copyright is free and automatic as soon as material is written down and recorded in some way. There is no need to have the work published for copyright protection to apply. Hence all information on the internet has copyright protection. Copyright lasts for 50 years after the death of the author (ACC 2004, p.3) and protects such works as literature, computer programmes, compilations, artistic work, dramatic work, musical work, cinematography, sound recordings, broadcasts, and published editions (ACC 2004, p.1). In general, copyright material can not be used, for any reason (personal or non-profit), without the copyright owner’s permission or copyright may be infringed whereby penalties will apply (ACC 2004, p.5).


An exemption to the use of copyright material without the owner’s permission is known as ‘fair dealing’. The copyright Act states that if less than a certain amount of a copyright item is used for the following purposes then the use is considered to be fair (ACC 2003, p.2). Circumstances when the infringement may be deemed “fair” include the use of copyright material for criticism or review, reporting news, professional advice by a lawyer or attorney, and the use for research or study (ACC 2003, p.2)


The Act also sets out some guidelines to determine if the use is fair when used for research or study. When the material is a published edition of 10 or more pages, then 10% of the number of pages or one chapter (if divided into chapters) may be reproduced. If the material is produced electronically (may be available on the internet) it is deemed fair to reproduce 10% of the number of words or one chapter (ACC 2001, p.1).


When the amount used exceeds these limits or the material is not written (pictures or diagrams) then the following factors are taken into consideration; the purpose and character of the dealing (for example, copying in connection to a course or reproducing something into an assignment is likely to be fair); the nature of the work (for example it may be less fair to copy material resulting from a high degree of skill than a mundane work); the possibility of obtaining the work at an ordinary commercial price (generally fair to copy all of a work not available commercially but unfair to photocopy all or most of a work that can be bought); the effect of the dealing on the potential market for, or value of, the work (for example, making more than one copy is less likely to be fair than making one copy); substantiality of the work copied in relation to the whole work (less fair to copy a large important part of the work than to copy a small or unimportant part)


(ACC 2001, p.2)


When copying material from the internet for research or study and a statement allowing students to reproduce or download material can not be found, then it is allowable to do so if the above limits and factors are not breached. Thus the use is fair. However, while under copyright law it may be permissible to copy something (pictures, text) into an assignment it does not mean the work can be presented as your own, this is plagiarism. Changes to the copyright Act in December 2000 resulted in the need to attribute the author of the material copied. Most educational institutions expect students to acknowledge sources (for example, in-text referencing and a bibliography) (ACC 2001, p.3).


In conclusion, all material on the internet has copyright protection and permission from the copyright owner is needed for the use of material in