The Australian law of copyright is a very interesting topic.
It has changed over time, along with the Australian government. Nowadays, it is
close to other country’s copyright regarding laws and is very complex, with
many case-to-case decisions needed to be made.
Over time, Australian copyright law had been greatly adapted
to fit British and International copyright law. The first form of copyright
that the British had created was the Statue of Anne, 1709, which gave some weak
protection to authors. Until British copyright law had been brought to
Australia, 1928, it started protecting sculptures and engravings. Over time, it
evolved, adding speeches, paintings, and photographs. Long before British law
had been adapted, some colonies (later called states) had their own type of
copyright law which could vary from colony to colony. The very first copyright
statue was passed in a colony in Victoria, Australia.
“The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution,
to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the
Commonwealth with respect to, inter alia,
copyright, patents of inventions and designs, and
trademarks” -Commonwealth Constitution, section 51
After Australia joined the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth
constitution allowed the Parliament to make laws for order, peace, and good
government. As the Australian constitution gave that power to the Parliament
too, immediate changes had been made. From then on, copyright law and all
related things no longer were the business of the states, but the federal
parliament. The first copyright statue that evolved in the hands of the federal
parliament, was the Copyright Act 1905, an adapted version of British law.
Australia fully became part of British copyright law, when adopting the British
Copyright law, 1911, in 1912. This act stayed in force, until 1969, when the
Australian Copyright Act 1968 came into force. The Copyright Act 1968 was
created after the 1911 Act was reviewed and apparently not fulfilling the
Brussels Act of the Berne Convention. Until now, the 1968 Act is in force,
however, some amendments had been made.
Australian law protects literary works, musical works, films,
artistic works, broadcast, dramatic works, sound recordings, and published
editions. Before 2004, the work entered public domain 50 years after death,
however, after 2006, the works stayed out of public domain until 70 years after
death. In Australia, copyright does not apply to works published before May,
1969. According to the 1968 Act, any work published after the author’s death
will come to public domain not 70 years after the author’s death, but 70 years
after the publication. Unpublished literary, dramatic, and musical works hold
indefinite copyright protection.
The main copyright exception in Australia is fair dealing
(not to misunderstand as fair use), which allow usage of copyrighted works that
fall into range of purposes. Each type of work varies, but some possibilities
are research, study, news-reporting, review, criticism, judicial proceedings,
or professional legal advice. Some other exceptions fall under private copying.
From 2006 on, recording broadcast to watch or listen to later, to make copies
of audio recordings for domestic and private use, or to copy a newspaper,
magazine, or literary work for private use.
In Australia, a copyright notice does not have to be on a
work for copyright to apply. However, it is recommended to add the date of
first publication and owner. Copyrights can also be owned by the crown in
Australia, however, they only last for 50 years after creation or publication.
The exception are unpublished literary, dramatic, and musical works, which hold
Australian copyright has changed over years, from the very
first statue protecting authors, to the Copyright Amendment Act 2017 has become
effective. It has evolved in a way like no other, and is definitely interesting
with its complexity.