What can I copy and re-use without a copyright owner's permission?
Material not protected by copyright
You do not need to obtain any permissions where:
- the item was never protected by copyright;
- copyright has been waived, such as by the author marking their work with a Creative Commons' CC0 – 'No Rights Reserved' open licence; or
- copyright has expired and the work is in the public domain (see How long does copyright last?)
Not all works in Library collections have been protected by copyright during their existence, although other areas of law might apply. For example:
- A gum leaf inscribed with the words ‘Dardanelles, 1915’ as a memento of the First World War was never covered by copyright because single words (even invented words), names, titles and slogans are too small and unoriginal to be protected by copyright. However, a word or name might be protected as a registered trade mark.
- Objects such as a medal are not covered by copyright, but may be protected by design law.
- An inventor’s prototype may not be covered by copyright, but may be protected by a registered patent.
- A church’s registers of births, deaths and marriages may not be covered by copyright, but access might be restricted by the church on the grounds of privacy to protect personal information.
Australian copyright law allows you to copy or re-use in-copyright material in certain circumstances. The provisions of the Copyright Act that set out these circumstances are known as exceptions. If an exception applies, you do not need to ask the copyright owner for permission to undertake acts within its scope.
For example, the fair dealing exceptions can apply when you copy material for the purpose of research, study, criticism, review, parody, satire, reporting the news, or giving legal advice. The Copyright Act expressly states that certain acts constitute fair dealings, such as copying up to 10 per cent or one chapter of a book, or copying one article, for research or study. However, in other cases you will need to consider the elements of fair dealing as set out in the Copyright Act. There are also exceptions which allow some copying by cultural and educational institutions and on behalf of people with print or intellectual disabilities. These are particularly relevant when you ask the library to reproduce collection material and supply a copy to you.
Amendments in 2017 introduced exceptions to facilitate the import and export of accessible formats of published works (in accordance with the provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty) and exceptions that enable persons with a disability and anyone assisting them, as well as organisations assisting persons with a disability to use copyright material. The Australian Copyright Council website provides further information on the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures).
For an explanation of the key exceptions see the Copying without the copyright owner's permission PDF below. The Australian Copyright Council website provides a range of information sheets.
Restrictions for other reasons
In addition, special restrictions not related to copyright often apply to the copying of rare or unique works in the Library's collections. These may be due to preservation concerns, conditions of acquisition, or because of the operation of other laws (such as defamation and privacy). Read more about copying that requires the Library's permission.