Protecting Your Work

Authors, creators and copyright owners have the right to protect their work against possible infringement and prevent others from using their work without their permission.

In Australia, copyright material is subject to copyright as soon as it is created. The author or creator does not have to do anything to gain copyright and protection for their work. You do not need to include the copyright symbol - © - on your work (although it is recommended) or register your work. For information on what your rights are, see Rights of Copyright Owners.

There are several practical steps that you can take to protect and effectively manage your rights.

  • Include a copyright statement on your work. A copyright statement is usually the copyright symbol - a lower case c in a circle, the name of the copyright owner (who or may not be the author) and the year the work was created, e.g. © John Smith 2010 or © University of Melbourne. By including a copyright statement, you alert people to the fact that your work is subject to copyright and they cannot just freely use it however they want. A copyright statement is not needed to protect the work, but many people mistakenly believe that if there is no copyright statement, the work is not subject to copyright and they can do whatever they want with the work.
  • Include a full bibliographic citation - people can correctly acknowledge your work when they use it. It's also less likely that your work will end up as an orphaned work (where the creator or copyright owner cannot be identified or located) and people cannot contact you to ask permission.
  • Include instructions on how to seek permission and contact information - People are often aware that they need permission but they cannot locate contact information to get it.
  • Use metadata - If the work is in digital format then include this information in the metadata, this ensures that it always remains with the work and reduces the chances of your work becoming an orphaned work.
  • Include a watermark - A watermark is an outline of an image or other mark that appears in the background. Many people will not want to use material that includes a watermark because it is not suitable and so will need to contact you to get a clean copy of the work.
  • Use low resolution images - People will then need to contact you to get a high resolution version.
  • Choose a format that is more difficult to reproduce - If you are concerned about people copying and using or modifying your work without your permission, choose a format that is harder to copy and/or change for example make text available in a pdf format rather as html or a word document. Some formats may be less accessible for people with disabilities, so you many need to take this into account and provide an alternative format or details on how to obtain an alternative format.
  • Apply a Technological Protection Measure (TPM) - If your work is in digital format, you may be able to apply a technological protection measure (TPM) that can help protect your work. TPMS are locks that can prevent a person from accessing or copying material without permission. TPMs are commonly used on digital music or movies and computer software and games. Under the Copyright Act, it is illegal to circumvent a TPM.

If your copyright is infringed, you have the right to take action against the individual or organisation responsible. You do need to make sure that their use is actually an infringement as there are provisions in the Copyright Act that allow people to use copyright material without needing permission. If the infringement occurred online, you may wish to send the website responsible a takedown notice. If the infringement is in a print publication - a cease and desist letter might be required.

If the infringement, relates to material where the University owns copyright, we can assist. If copyright is owned by a staff member or a student, then they will need to seek independent legal advice. Students may be able to acess the Student Union Legal Service.