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Frequently asked questions

Is there copyright protection for titles?

No: a short phrase or title is unlikely to be treated as a literary work in its own right. Titles maybe protected by laws other than copyright, such as passing off. Passing off is a trader's remedy designed to prevent rival traders from cashing in on an established reputation in the market place by adopting a similar name or other distinctive feature of a product. The Australian Consumer Law, which prohibits conduct that is misleading or deceptive, might also prevent the copying of an existing title. If an author has a reputation in a title, he or she may be able to prevent others from using it if that use is likely to mislead consumers. However, generally an author is entitled to choose any title provided it would not lead to confusion. In certain cases trade mark registration may also be available.

Since copyright is not registered, how can ownership of copyright be proved?

Copyright need only be proved if copyright ownership is disputed in court. If proof is needed the person's own statement is generally sufficient [s 126], unless other evidence contradicts it. If there is other evidence, a person who owns copyright as the result of being the author or creator of the material would prove it by calling witnesses who know that the person created the material and by producing original drafts, manuscripts or sketches [s 134A].

Will changing a work avoid infringing copyright?

Unless permission is obtained, reproducing a work infringes copyright. Attempts to change a work rarely avoid infringement. The copy does not have to be exact - if it is the result of reliance on a substantial part of a copyright owner's work it is likely to infringe.

Is copyright infringed if a work is very similar?

Only where works are similar as the result of copying will copyright be infringed. For example, if different photographers take separate photographs of the same subject, both are original (and both are therefore protected), even if they are similar. The question of infringement only arises if the second photographer actually copies the first photograph.

Does copyright protect ideas?

Copyright does not protect ideas but the physical expression or form that the ideas take - for example, in a manuscript. Ideas, concepts or techniques cannot be protected by copyright. If the ideas (such as the plot of a book) are used by another author, this will only amount to an infringement if there has been a substantial reproduction of the work produced by the original author's skill and labour.

What is the role of the National Library?

The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) [s 201] requires that a copy of all published library material - such as books, journals and pamphlets - must be deposited with the National Library of Australia. International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), which are printed in the publications, and identify them, can also be obtained from the National Library. In addition to this the States have their own deposit requirements - for example, copies of all library material published in South Australia must also be deposited with the Mortlock Library and the Parliamentary Library of South Australia. [Libraries Act 1982 (SA) s. 35]

    Frequently asked questions  :  Last Revised: Fri Apr 1st 2016
    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.