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Legal rights of owners

The owner of copyright has certain exclusive rights. For example, copyright in relation to a literary, dramatic or musical work is the exclusive right to do all or any of the following acts:

  • reproduce the work in a material form (that is, any form of copying, including by hand, photocopying, taping, filming, and storage in a computer retrieval system);
  • publish the work (that is, distribute copies to members of the public for the first time);
  • perform the work in public (including live or recorded in any non domestic situation such as a pub, hall, club, and even a staff lunch room);
  • communicate the work to the public (this means make available online or electronically transmit);
  • adapt the work, including using the adaptation in any of the ways listed above.

See Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) s 31(1)(a).

What rights apply?

The rights of reproduction, publication and communication to the public apply to artistic works [s 31(1)(b)]. The exclusive rights in sound recordings, films, television broadcasts and published editions are more limited and are set out in sections 85-88. For sound recordings and films the rights are: to communicate it to the public; to cause it to be seen or heard in public; and to make a copy.

Performers also have protection against unauthorised recordings, broadcast or transmission of their live performance [Part XIA].

Commercial rent

A commercial rent can be charged by owners of copyright in:

  • computer programs [s 31(1)(d)]
  • other literary, musical or dramatic works that are reproduced in a sound recording [s 31(1)(c)]
  • sound recordings [s 85(1)(d)].

Damages for circumvention of protective devices

Copyright owners may also commence an action against people who import or manufacture devices that facilitate the circumvention of technological protection measures such as locks or encryption, or who provide circumvention services. Removal or alteration of electronic rights management information (which identifies the author or owner or states conditions of use) without permission of the owner may also result in court action [see ss 116AN - 116AQ, 116B - 116D].

Rights under contract

Copyright owners’ rights are limited to those rights specified in the Act.

Other forms of use can not be restrained unless there is a contractual relationship between the owner and the user. So, for instance, the owner of copyright in a literary work can prevent a person from photocopying it as this is a protected right; however, they cannot prevent them from lending the book to someone else as this form of use is not covered by copyright law.

If a contract is agreed to when the copy of a work is supplied then that may impose more extensive obligations upon a user. So, for instance, contractual terms may be imposed when access is granted to electronic databases that restrict how they are used and by who.

    Legal rights of owners  :  Last Revised: Fri Dec 12th 2014
    The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.