Last updated 16 August 2022

There are two types of subject matter protected under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Copyright Act). The two broad categories are works and subject matter other than works. Part III (ss 31–83 Copyright Act) provides copyright protection for works, meaning original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Part IV (ss 84–113 Copyright Act) provides copyright protection for subject matter other than works, which includes sound recordings, cinematograph films, television broadcasts, sound broadcasts and published editions of works. It is important to note that for the purposes of copyright, multimedia creations are treated as a combination of literary, musical and artistic works used in combination with sound recordings, television broadcasts and film. Each of the underlying works is afforded the same level of protection as traditional copyright works.

Part III works

Literary works

Literary works are defined in s 10(1) of the Copyright Act to include ‘a table, or compilation, expressed in words, figures or symbols (whether or not in a visible form) and ‘a computer program or compilation of computer programs’. The following have been held to be literary works under the Copyright Act:

  • novels
  • lyrics
  • reports
  • poems
  • advertisements, newspaper articles
  • instruction manuals
  • shopping lists
  • examination papers
  • bingo results
  • lists of football matches
  • accounting forms
  • trade catalogue of motorcycle parts
  • instructions on seed packets
  • computer programs.

Dramatic works

Dramatic works refers to works that are intended for performance. These may include:

  • a choreographic show
  • a screenplay or script for cinematographic film, but not a film based on the screenplay (s 10(1) Copyright Act).

Musical works

Musical works are not defined in the Copyright Act. The reference to the word ‘musical’ refers to the method of production and not to artistic or aesthetic qualities of the work. Any combination of sounds and noises which are capable of being fixed in a form, whether by notation or recorded by compact disc, tape or stored in a computer, will be protected as a musical work regardless of its merit.

Artistic works

Artistic works are extensively defined in s 10(1) of the Copyright Act to include:

  • a painting, sculpture, drawing, engraving or photograph
  • a building or a model of a building, whether of artistic quality or not
  • a work of ‘artistic craftsmanship’. This term is not defined in the Act.

Part IV works

Cinematograph films

Cinematograph films are defined in s 10(1) of the Copyright Act as ‘… an aggregate of the visual images embodied in an article or thing … shown as a moving picture’. Cinematograph films include:

  • videotapes
  • feature films
  • commercials
  • television programs
  • video clips
  • musical scores and sounds accompanying images in cinematograph films
  • visual images and sounds in interactive multimedia video games.

Sound recordings

Sound recordings are defined in s 10(1) of the Copyright Act as ‘… a collection of sounds captured on a record, including disc, tape or other devices in which sounds are embodied’. This is a very broad definition and includes:

  • compact disc
  • digital audio tape
  • vinyl disc
  • reel to reel
  • tape
  • audio cassette.

It is the actual capture of the sounds on the original record that is protected—sound-alike recordings will not be considered to be an infringement of sound recording copyright. However, a sound-alike recording may infringe other copyright in other aspects of the work, such as the music or the lyrics (as literary works).

Sound and television broadcasts

Television broadcast is defined to mean visual image broadcast by way of television, together with any sound broadcast for reception along with those images (s 10(1) Copyright Act). Sound broadcast means sound broadcast other than as part of a television broadcast.

Published editions

A published edition of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work refers to the typographical arrangement that is the layout and formatting of the printed page as published. Published edition copyright recognises the labour, skill and effort that are invested in the layout of published works. Published edition copyright is distinct from copyright in the material that is being typeset. This means, for example, that a newspaper article may consist both of copyright in the literary work and also of published edition copyright in the way that the article is set out and organised. Copyright only subsists in a published edition of a work if the edition does not reproduce a previous edition of that work (s 92 Copyright Act).