Copyright at UWA

Using copyright material for education and research at UWA

The University Library provides copyright support for the UWA community to help staff and students understand their copyright obligations and, in doing so, maximise the use of copyright material for teaching, learning and research.

The Library can assist with:

Advice regarding the use of copyright material for education and research

Assistance with locating copyright-compliant resources

Online support materials and FAQs

Copyright awareness and training workshops

For more information, or for assistance with a query, contact us.


What is copyright?

Copyright refers to a bundle of exclusive rights of a creator of a work, which includes rights to reproduce, publish, perform in public, communicate, and adapt their work. Copyright protection is automatic when an original work is created in a tangible form.

In Australia, copyright law is governed by the Copyright Act 1968 and associated legislation.

The Copyright Act also contains specific exceptions to a creator’s rights to make copyright works available for specific purposes, such as education. Licences from copyright owners specifying permitted uses also enable copyright works to be used in ways that would otherwise infringe the rights of the owner.

For more general information on copyright protection in Australia, see this Introduction to Copyright in Australia from the Australian Copyright Council. 

What material is protected?

The Copyright Act divides materials protected by copyright into two broad categories: ‘works’, and ‘subject matter other than works’.


Literary works: Journal articles, books, newspapers, poems, theses, computer programs

Artistic works: Paintings, photographs, drawings, architectural plans, building and sculptures

Dramatic works: Choreography, plays and film scripts

Musical works: Sheet music

Subject matter other than works

Broadcasts: Radio and television broadcasts

Films: Theatrical films, DVDs, video recordings

Sound recordings: CDs, MP3 files, cassette tapes, vinyl recordings

Published editions: The format and typesetting of a publication

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, styles, techniques and information – rather, it protects the expression of ideas. It also does not protect names, titles and slogans – but note that these may instead be protected under trademark law. 

Who owns copyright?

Generally speaking, under the Copyright Act the first copyright owner is the creator of the work, and in the case of a sound recording, film, broadcast or published edition, the person who makes that copyright material, such as the producer of a film, broadcaster of a broadcast, or record company compiling the record.

There are a number of exceptions to this general rule of copyright ownership. For example, copyright ownership may be varied by contract, such as a publishing agreement, where the copyright owner agrees to assign their copyright to another party (the publisher).

Copyright at UWA

Under the University’s Intellectual Property Policy, University staff (pursuant to a contract of service to the University) own the intellectual property in the teaching materials and scholarly works that they create and give the University a perpetual and irrevocable licence to use these materials for teaching, learning and research purposes. 

Students own the intellectual property in work that they create, unless they assign it in writing to others. Students always own the copyright in their theses.

Consult the University’s Intellectual Property Policy for more information about copyright ownership at UWA.

How long does copyright last?

Copyright protection in Australia generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years from the year of their death, or 70 years from the end of the year of first publication, depending on the circumstances. 

The duration of copyright protection for unpublished and orphan works (where the identity of the author is not known) changed on 1 January 2019. More information on copyright duration is available on the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications website.

Using copyright material

There are a number of exceptions and licences that allow for copyright material to be used without the permission of the copyright owner. 

Education licences

The Copyright Act contains a statutory licence under which the University can copy and communicate works and broadcasts for educational purposes subject to a number of conditions. The statutory licence is set out in section 113P of the Copyright Act.

Under the statutory licence, text (except for computer programs), images, notated music, and radio and television broadcasts can be copied and communicated by University staff for educational purposes.

Further information about the educational statutory licence can be found on the Copyright for teaching page. 

Insubstantial parts

Copyright will generally not be infringed if an insubstantial part of the copyright material is used, for example, to include a quote or brief excerpt in a journal article or thesis.

A part will be considered ‘substantial’ if it is an essential, vital or material part of the copyright material. It will depend on the circumstances of each case whether a part is so important that permission is required to use it. Consideration needs to be given to the importance the part bears to the copyright material as a whole. The quality of the part is more important than the quantity used from the copyright material. The part may be substantial even if it is a small proportion of all of the copyright material.

You must also ensure that you correctly and fully reference all parts that you use.

Fair dealing

Fair dealing for research or study

Under the fair dealing provisions of the Copyright Act, you can reproduce copyright material without permission for research and study, providing your use of the material is 'fair'.

For books, journal articles and notated music the Copyright Act considers it 'fair' to copy a reasonable portion, which is defined as:

  • an article in a periodical publication (such as a journal or newspaper article)
  • more than one article from a periodical publication if it is for the same course of study or research
  • 10 per cent or one chapter if the work is a published edition of 10 pages or more; or 10 per cent of the words if the work is in electronic form

When deciding whether to copy more than this amount, or if you are copying an artistic work (such as an image or photograph) or audiovisual material (such as a sound recording, film or TV program), you must consider whether your use would be considered 'fair'. To decide whether your use is fair, consider the following factors:

  • the purpose and character of your use
  • the nature of the work
  • the possibility of obtaining the work within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price
  • the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of, the work
  • the amount and substantiality of the part copied taken in relation to the whole work

You cannot use copies made under the research or study fair dealing provision for any other purpose; for example, if you make a copy of material for research or study purposes, you cannot then use the material in a publication. This means that you will need to seek permission to use any copyright material that you’ve copied during your research in anything you intend to publish.

Fair dealing for criticism or review

There are provisions in the Copyright Act that allow literary, dramatic, musical, artistic or audiovisual works to be copied for the purposes of criticism or review, providing the work is acknowledged through a citation and providing the use of the work is 'fair'.

When determining whether your use of a work is 'fair', consider the following:

  • It must be a genuine attempt to review and/or critique the work (for example, comparing the work with another work by the author; comparing one movie clip with another as part of a film review).
  • The criticism may be of the underlying ideas in the work, or the work itself.
  • Criticisms and reviews do not need to be balanced and can be humorous.

You cannot rely on this provision to use a work simply to explain or illustrate your own work. When copying a work to critique or review, only copy as much as is needed. The provision applies if the critique or review is being published, presented at a conference or made available online.

Access by a person with a disability

The Copyright Act enables dealings with works or audiovisual items if it is for the purpose of a person with a disability having access to the copyright material (whether the dealing is by the person with a disability or another person who assists them). 

Read more information about the factors to take into account when determining if the dealing is “fair”.

Moral rights

Authors of literary works, dramatic works, musical works, artistic works and films have moral rights in their material regardless of who owns the copyright in the material. Moral rights recognise that works and films can be an extension of the author’s personality and that the relationship between the author and their works and films should be respected. Only individuals have moral rights and these cannot be assigned to others.

An author’s moral rights are:

  • The right to be attributed (or credited) as the author of their works and films.
  • The right not to have their authorship of their works and films falsely attributed.
  • The right of integrity of authorship of their works and films (in other words, the right not to have their works and films subject to derogatory treatment).

In practice this means you must correctly attribute or credit the source of any material that you use through a correctly formatted citation, and must not treat the material in a derogatory way. If you fail to cite the source, incorrectly cite it to someone else, or treat it in a way which is prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author or performer then you risk infringing their moral rights.

Link, don't copy

Linking to an item that is located online can avoid copyright implications and provide access to more of an item than may be allowed under copyright or licences. Linking to an electronic book, an article in an online journal or newspaper, or a video or image on the Internet, does not create a copy of the work.

Check whether the online source has a linking policy before making links. You should never link to an infringing website (a website that hosts materials that have been shared without the copyright owners' permission, like file-sharing sites).

Contact the Library for more information about subscription licence restrictions or for help in finding links to materials.

You can also use Unit Readings to easily provide links to print, digitised and online reading materials for your students. 

Creative Commons licences

Creative Commons licences are a legal mechanism through which creators can grant permission to others to reuse their work within specified terms. Items with the following licences can be used for any purpose – including commercial purposes – according to the terms specified without seeking further permission:

  • Attribution (CC BY): the original creator must be acknowledged.
  • Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA): the original creator must be acknowledged, and your new work must also have a CC BY-SA licence.
  • Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND): the original creator must be acknowledged, and the original content cannot be modified.

Alternatively, copyright owners may choose to release their material under a public domain dedication, also known as a “CC0” licence. Here the copyright owner is giving everyone permission to use the work, and is not placing any restrictions on how it can be used. There is no requirement to attribute this material; however, it’s recommended to always attribute in accordance with standard academic practice.

Visit the Creative Commons website for more detailed information about the licences and terms of use.

Government information

All material created by the United States federal government and its agencies is in the public domain and therefore can be reproduced for any purpose. Be aware, though, that websites and reports authored by a government agency may include material copyrighted by a third party, so it's important to check for any attribution.

Australian federal government agencies are required to publish under Creative Commons attribution licences or other open content licences, wherever possible. Most use a CC BY licence. However, it is important to check each agency's website for copyright information and be aware of third party content used in government publications.

Open Educational Resources and Open Textbooks

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning materials of all types that are meant to be used and reused freely by educators. The OER Handbook wiki has a compilation of links and information about OERs. Materials are also available in the OER Commons.

Open Textbooks are educational resources that can be used in teaching and are licensed to allow copying, sharing and adaptation. They can resemble traditional commercial textbooks in terms of structure and content, but students can access open textbooks online for free - meaning they do not need to purchase them in order to download, print or share them. The Council of Australian Universities have a list of websites and online search tools to enable you to find open textbooks to use in your teaching. 

If you are interested in using OERs or Open Textbooks in your teaching, please contact the Library's Research and Academic Engagement team for support. 

Free to use resources

Free to use content is either explicitly licensed for re-use (through a Creative Commons or equivalent licence), or is in the public domain (copyright free or copyright has expired).

There are many sources of free to use content available online; however, when considering content for teaching, whether audio, visual, video, or text, the first step is to check the terms of use attached to the item – if any. For an example, many websites have a section labelled copyright or legal or terms of use that might grant explicit permission for reuse – or they might place certain restrictions on use.

The moral rights requirement [see the Using copyright material section of this page] of attribution still applies to free to use resources, particularly Creative Commons licensed material, unless the re-use licence explicitly states that attribution is not required.

The main takeaway when looking for and/or using free to use resources is always check the terms of use or licence attached to the resource before downloading or sharing it.

Where to find free to use resources

The following sites provide a useful starting point for free to use resources. Be mindful that users of the sites may upload copyright infringing material, so always check the terms of use before downloading or sharing material.

Free to use images

Mostly Creative Commons licensed material, but always check the terms of use.

Limit the search to items that have Creative Commons licences.

Search over 500 million openly licensed images.

Science topics with a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence.

Public domain maps and images from works in the British Library.

Millions of public domain images from the Smithsonian's collections.

Over 300,000 openly licensed images from the Natural Sciences, Documentary Heritage and Human History collections.

Professional looking icons. Requires a free account.

Use the Search Tools / Usage Rights option to limit the search to items labelled for reuse.

Free stock photos (although some premium licensed photos appear in the search results).

Free art photographs, mostly landscapes and scenery.

Free stock photos (although some premium licensed photos appear in the search results).

Free for personal and commercial use.

Free to use videos

Huge selection of various Creative Commons licensed videos.

Collection of public domain films.

Stock footage – though check the licence before downloading as some videos require attribution.

Videos available under various CC licences, though note that you’re not always able to download them.

Free stock footage but attribution is required.

Anyone can upload to the Moving Image Archive, so there are videos with different copyright statuses – always check the licence before using.

Good selection of free stock videos, licensed under CC0. Some premium licensed content will appear in the search results.

Good selection of free stock videos, licensed under CC0. Some premium licensed content will appear in the search results.

Historical media files available to download (but you need to create an account). Note that Pond5 also premium licensed content, so be sure to stick to the ‘Public Domain’ content.

Free to use music

Mixture of Creative Commons and Public Domain music.

A community music site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons licences.

Music for content creators; all clips require attribution and can only be used in YouTube-hosted videos.

Royalty-free music that requires attribution of the musician and website.

Classical music made available under Creative Commons licences.

Limited selection of “royalty free” music clips (only 59 to choose from) that don’t require attribution.

Limited selection of free music files available to download (but you need to create an account). Note that Pond5 also premium licensed content, so be sure to stick to the ‘Public Domain’ content.

Open Access and free to use journals and books

DOAJ is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high-quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals.

DOAB contains over 13,000 academic peer-reviewed books and chapters from over 280 publishers.

Knowledge Unlatched offers free access to scholarly content from a variety of disciplines, including Anthropology, Economics, Languages, Political Science, Psychology and more.

HathiTrust is a partnership of academic and research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitised from libraries around the world.

The Internet Archive offers more than 15 million freely downloadable books and texts. There is also a collection of 550,000 modern ebooks that may be borrowed by anyone with a free account.

Project Gutenberg offers over 57,000 free ebooks, with a focus on older works for which copyright has expired.

PLOS was founded as a non-profit Open Access publisher, innovator and advocacy organisation with a mission to advance progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication.

Who can I contact for help with copyright?

If you need help with a copyright query and you are a UWA staff member or Higher Degree by Research student, contact the Librarian Support Team by email:

UWA staff: [email protected]

HDR students: [email protected]

For all other queries, including permission requests to use UWA owned material, email the Senior Librarian (Copyright) at [email protected]. The mailbox is monitored on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesday mornings. Your query will be answered as soon as possible.

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