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4.1 What is copyright? Why do we need it?

Copyright protects what writers, artists, photographers and musicians have created. These creations are called their intellectual property. The creator of any original work owns the copyright of that work, which is the exclusive right to authorise copying and communication of their work. We need copyright for a number of reasons:

  • Australian law recognises that individuals have the right to make money from the sale of copies of their work.
  • Copyright also protects creative works from being used without the copyright owner's agreement.

Copyright protection is free and automatic, but it is advisable to use the copyright symbol on work you create: eg © Toby Wright 2006

Consider these situations

Q: You have just created an original T-shirt design. Is it protected by copyright?
Q: You want to use part of someone else's design in your T-shirt. Can you do this?
Q: Will you always have to pay a royalty for using someone else's design or a sample of someone else's music in your own work?
Q: Is your own web page protected by copyright?
Q: Does copyright protect ideas?


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