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Copyright: Using Copyright Protected Material

Copyright Help Guide

Getting Permission from the Copyright Owner

There is no Australian system of registering for copyright, so there are no official records of ownership to search.                                      

The Copyright Act doesn't allow you to use material without permission if you are unable to contact the copyright owner. You may be able to get information on the copyright owner from the material you wish to use  or if the material has been used elsewhere, it may be worth contacting them to see where they obtained  permission.  The Australian Copyright council has a detailed helpsheet on seeking permission. 

Permission from copyright holders is often needed when creating training materials, research papers, and  web sites. You need to obtain permission when you use a work in a way that infringes on the exclusive rights granted to a copyright holder (i.e. outside the boundaries of fair use).

Steps to obtain permission to use copyrighted material:

  1. Determine if permission is needed for the work you want to use.
  2. Identify the copyright holder or agent. 
  3. Send written request for permission to use. Remember to give yourself ample lead time, as the process for obtaining permissions can take months. Decide if you are willing to pay a licensing fee/royalty.
  4. If the copyright holder can't be located or is unresponsive (or if you are unwilling to pay a license fee), be prepared to use a limited amount that qualifies for fair use, or use alternative material.

More information from the Australian Copyright Council website:

Permission: Do I need it?

Permission: How to get it?

Using Copyright Protected Materials

Fair Dealing

The fair dealing provisions allow limited use of copyright material for certain purposes without requiring permission from the copyright owner. Fair dealing only applies to certain purposes, such as research or study, criticism or review.

Fair Dealing for Research or Study

Under fair dealing for research and study, you can copy:

  • 10% of the total number of pages or words (if the work is not paginated) or 1 chapter of the work, whichever is greatest. You may be able to copy more than 10% or 1 chapter under certain circumstances.
  • 1 article from a journal issue, magazine or newspaper. You may have 2 or more articles from the same issue if they are for the same research or course of study.

If you wish to copy other types of material (e.g. images, films, sound recordings, unpublished material) or more than 10% or 1 chapter of textual material, you must consider if your use is "fair and reasonable" under the following conditions:

  • why you are copying the work
  • the nature of the work
  • the possibility of obtaining a copy within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the work
  • if only part of the work is copied, the amount and substantiality of the part in relation to the whole work.

The provision only applies to material being copied for your own research and study.

More information from the Australian Copyright Council website:

Fair Dealing: What can I use without permission?

Can I use that image?