Copyright matters


Copyright and your own work


Copyright ownership

Copyright in a work is (usually) owned by the original author/creator of that work
  • copyright in works created by an employee (usually) belong to the employer

A work is automatically protected by copyright as soon as it is given 'material expression'

  • copyright does not protect ideas or facts

The copyright owner’s rights

The copyright owner of a work has the exclusive right to: copy, publish, and perform it; communicate it online; translate or adapt it; and to assign, transfer, or sell ownership of the work to someone else.

Regardless of who comes to own the copyright in a work, its protection endures for the life of the author plus 70 years.

When is copyright infringed?

Anyone wishing to copy, adapt, translate, or communicate a work must seek the owner’s permission, unless they are making use of it under the ‘fair dealing exceptions, or another provision of the Copyright Act (e.g. the CAL licence). 

Using a work without without those exceptions and provisions may be an infringement of copyright.

Alternatives to the exclusive rights

A copyright owner/author can choose to cede some or all of their exclusive rights by applying, for instance, a Creative Commons  licence to their work.

What does this mean for academics working at Murdoch University?

Copyright and other Intellectual Property matters are governed by the Copyright Act and the University's Intellectual Property Regulations

Copyright and teaching materials

Copyright in course materials and teaching materials created by an employee (academic or general staff) is owned by the University.

Copyright in work other than teaching materials but created by its employees "in the course and scope" of their employment (e.g. the content of this website) is owned by the University.

Copyright and scholarly output/research materials

Copyright in an academic's "conventional scholarly output" - including articles, book chapters, etc -  is usually owned by the author(s).

  • read any publisher contract/agreement to see if you are expected to assign all copyright in your article, chapter, etc to the publisher
    • try to retain as many rights as possible – especially the right to self-archive the work
  • be aware that funding and other outside bodies may require copyright ownership or co-ownership in material created with their support
    • check any agreement or contract for details of copyright assignment
  • the ARC Open Access Policy means that recipients of ARC research grants must deposit an open access copy of any publications that are the output of that research in the University's Research Repository within 12 months of publication

Student works

  • students retain copyright in their own work
  • it is a condition of enrolment that students grant the University a non-exclusive licence to publish that work in accordance with normal academic conventions for the recognition of authorship
  • where there is joint authorship of a work, copyright will usually be co-owned by all parties
  • the University will have overall copyright ownership as the producer in works where there may be many layers of copyright, such as a film production (in which script, music, design, performances, etc. all attract separate copyright protection)

Honours theses

  • a student owns copyright in their thesis
  • under the Copyright Act's provision for Fair Dealing a student may incorporate portions of copyright protected material belonging to other people in their thesis
  • a student may make print copies of their thesis, even if it includes copyright protected third party materials, for the Library and their supervisor(s)
  • if third party materials are included in the thesis, it must not be published or disseminated in any other way – for instance on a personal website or in a festival or competition – without the express permission of all the owners of copyright protected material used
  • the Copyright Act allows unpublished theses to be copied by a third party for their own research and study

Masters and Doctoral theses

  • the author will (usually) retain copyright, and moral rights, in their thesis
  • the Copyright Act allows the reproduction of all or part of a thesis by another individual for the purposes of their own study and research

In some cases the University or a funding partner may be able to claim some ownership in a candidate's research output – see the University’s Intellectual Property Regulations, and check any funding agreements to see if the funding agency expects to claim copyright in the thesis or other research output.

For more detail on copyright issues for doctoral and other research degree candidates see the Copyright Guide for Graduate Research Students

Moral Rights

An author retains Moral Rights in their work regardless of who owns, or comes to own, the copyright.

  • the Right of Attribution: the author of a work has the right to be named as the author of that work. An author may forgo the right of attribution.
  • the Right not to be Falsely Attributed: an author has the right not to have another person named as the author of their work; an author also has the right not to have their name attached to an altered version of their work without the alteration being acknowledged.
  • the Right of Integrity: a work cannot be treated in a derogatory way. It cannot be altered or changed in any way that will impugn the author’s honour or reputation.