Copyright ownership

Owners of copyright in literary, dramatic, artistic and musical works have the exclusive right to:

  • reproduce the work in material form – this includes manually copying (e.g. tracing a picture or copying some text by hand), photocopying, scanning, recording (e.g. digitally recording, making a video/DVD and filming)
  • publish the work (i.e. making the work public for the first time)
  • communicate the work to the public (this includes posting material on an internet site and faxing, emailing or broadcasting the work).

Owners of copyright in literary, dramatic and musical works (not owners of copyright in artistic works) also have the exclusive right to:

  • perform the work – this includes live performances (e.g. a play, musical, opera or a band/orchestra playing a piece of music), as well as playing a film or sound recording in public)
  • make an adaptation (e.g. adapting a novel into a play or movie script, an arrangement of a musical work, or translating a publication into another language).

Owners of copyright in films, sound recordings, broadcasts and published editions have exclusive rights to:

  • make a copy of the material
  • cause a film to be seen, or a sound recording heard, by the public
  • communicate the material using any form of technology (e.g. email, or the internet)
  • re-broadcast to the public or otherwise communicate a television or sound broadcast.

Copyright protection is automatic

Copyright exists as soon as an idea has been written down or recorded in some other way, and is automatic. There is no need to register the material.

The use of the symbol © means the material is protected by copyright.

Using a copyright notice

A copyright notice alerts users that copyright exists. It also identifies the owner of the copyright. For example:

© Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy 2022

A copyright statement should accompany the notice to identify what the user can and cannot do with the work. The Queensland Government applies a Creative Commons licence to information to be released for public use to let people know how it can be used, and the attribution required:

© The State of Queensland 2022

The Queensland Government supports and encourages the distribution of its material.

Unless otherwise noted, all copyright material available on or through this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY) licence.


You are free to use copyright material available on or through this website in line with the licence terms. You must keep the copyright notice on the copyright material and attribute the State of Queensland as the source of the copyright material.

Copyright ownership

It's important to note that the owner of the product is not always the owner of copyright material.

The general rule is that the author is the first owner of the copyright in a literary, music, or dramatic work, a computer program or an artistic work, such as a drawing.

This rule may not apply if the copyright material:

  • was created by an employee as part of his or her usual duties
  • was created by a journalist
  • was a commissioned photograph taken for a private purpose or a commissioned portrait or engraving
  • was the subject of an agreement between the author and another person/organisation which included provisions about who would own the copyright material.

For example, you have just bought a movie DVD. You are the owner of the actual DVD, but you are not the copyright owner. The owner of the moving images and the sounds may be the movie company (e.g. Warner Brothers, Dreamworks, Disney). The soundtrack of the movie may consist of various songs compiled from different sources. In this case, the recording company (e.g. Sony, EMI Records) may be the owner of the soundtrack copyright. Additionally, the screenplay may also be owned by a different person or company.

Therefore, if you are reproducing copyright material, you need to check ownership, as there may be different owners of different components of the material you wish to reproduce.

Also consider...

  • Visit the Australian Copyright Council – a non-profit organisation partly funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. It supports a creative Australia through providing information and advice on copyright.
  • Read how the copyright function is with the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department, and copyright information is provided on that website.