helenlt on October 9th, 2015
All researchers create material which is protected by copyright. As a researcher, copyright plays an important role in protecting and sharing your intellectual property (IP). As such, you should understand what your rights are under copyright and how you can protect and manage those rights.
Generally, the person who created the copyright work will own copyright in it. However, this can vary if the work was created as part of a person’s employment or if the creator or author enters into an agreement that assigns ownership to the another party. In the University environment, researchers might enter into funding or publishing agreements that can affect copyright ownership. Copyright ownership at the University is also determined by the University’s Intellectual Property Statute and who owns copyright varies depending on whether the material was created by an academic staff member, professional staff, student or honorary or visiting staff. Unless there is a specific agreement in place that changes who owns copyright:
- Academic staff own copyright in their scholarly work; the University owns copyright in teaching material
- The University owns copyright in all material created by professional staff as part of their job
- Students own copyright in any material they create unless it was material created as part of their employment by the University
- Honorary or visiting staff own copyright in all material they create
If you have co-authors, then copyright is shared between the contributors, unless there is an agreement in place.
Your Rights as a Copyright Owner
As a copyright owner, you are given exclusive rights over your work. These rights include the right to reproduce your work, to publish it or make it available to the public and to communicate it and make it available online. If as part of your research, you create films or sound recordings, you have the right to perform or broadcast them as well. Under these rights, you decide if and how others can use your work. You can share your rights with other people or organisations – known as licensing your work – or you can transfer your rights to other – assigning copyright. Generally, assigning copyright is permanent, while licensing your work allows others to use it under certain conditions for a certain time. We’ll be talking about licensing your work or transferring your rights in later blog posts.
Although, you hold rights over your work and can control whether or not other people can use it, copyright provides certain exceptions to your rights. These exceptions allow copyright material to be used for specific purposes, such as education or research or study, without needing your permission. The exceptions have certain limits and conditions. They are also very much a two way street. Others can rely on these exceptions to use your work, but you will also use the exceptions for your own research. Our next blog post will cover what you need to know if you wish to use third party copyright material as part of your research. If you want to know more about these exceptions, you can read Using Copyright Material. If someone uses your work without your permission, and no exception in copyright law applies, then they have infringed your rights as copyright owner and you have the right to take action to prevent any further use.
Copyright protects different types of material that you create as part of your research: text of books and articles you write, photographs that you take, graphs and charts you draw, the music and scripts that your compose. An aspect of copyright that is often misunderstood is that copyright does not protect ideas and information themselves – only how they are expressed in material form. People can include ideas and information from your research so long as they express them in their own words and they acknowledge you as the source of the idea or information. If they don’t acknowledge you, that’s plagiarism!
Authors and creators, even if they don’t own copyright, hold moral rights over their work. Moral rights include the right to be acknowledged as the creator of a work, the right not to have your work falsely attributed or subject to prejudicial or derogatory treatment. See Moral Rights for more information.
For more information about your rights, visit Rights of Copyright Owners.
Protecting Your Work
In Australia, copyright protection is automatic and applies as soon as a copyright work is created. There are no formal procedures, for example registration, that you need to follow to make sure that your work is protected. There are some simple steps that you can follow to help protect your work and help people who want to use it do the right thing. You should give your work a title and make sure you are clearly identified as the author. If you don’t provide this information then people can attribute your work correctly and they also don’t know who to contact for permission to use it.
It’s a good idea to include a copyright statement – usually in the form – (C) Name of Copyright Owner Year of Creation, for example (C) Jane Smith 2015 or (C) University of Melbourne 2015. This helps to remind people that the work is protected by copyright so they can’t just do what they want with it. Just because a work doesn’t have a copyright statement, doesn’t mean that the work is not copyrighted (in fact the opposite applies)!
If your work is in electronic format, you can take steps to make it hard for people to copy and share your work. See Protecting Your Work.
If your work is used without your permission, and there is no provision in the Copyright Act that allows your work to be used for that purpose, your rights have been infringed and you can take action to stop any further use. We’ll be discussing how to deal with infringement in a future blog post.
If you would like further information on these topics, come along to our information session on Copyright and Research on the 30th October. You can also find an overview of the basics of copyright at What is Copyright? on the website