There is no need to register a work for copyright. Copyright protection is automatic once certain elements set out in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Copyright Act) have been satisfied. Placing a copyright notice (©) on a work is not required for a work to be protected. However, its use is advisable as the symbol usually alerts potential users that the work is protected by copyright law. To attract copyright protection, a work must:

  • be original
  • be reduced into material form
  • have some connection with Australia.

Originality

For copyright protection to apply, a work must be original (ss 32(1)–(2) Copyright Act). This means that the work has been produced with the author’s skill and labour, and it has not been copied. It does not mean that the work needs to have creative merit. The originality threshold in Australia is quite low—it only requires that the author has exercised nominal skill, labour and effort in the creation of the work. This low threshold was confirmed by the High Court and the Full Federal Court in 2009 and 2010 (see IceTV Pty Limited v Nine Network Australia Pty Limited [2009] HCA 14  and Telstra Corporation Limited v Phone Directories Company Pty Ltd [2010] FCAFC 149, which held that there was no copyright in factual compilations such as a television listing and telephone directories because they were not original).

Material form

Copyright does not afford protection to ideas or information until they have been expressed in a tangible form (i.e. material form (s 22 Copyright Act). This can include any form of storage (visible or invisible) from which the work can be reproduced. For example, traditional stories and songs are not protected by copyright unless they are recorded or written down.

Connection to Australia

To attract copyright, the work must be connected to Australia. This occurs when a work is:

  • made by an Australian citizen
  • made by a resident of a country that is also a member of the relevant international copyright treaty (Berne Convention)
  • published first in Australia.