Copyright

Researchers and Copyright

Copyright is a type of property founded on a person's creative skill and labour, and is independent of the custody or ownership of the physical item. Copyright controls the reproduction or publication of the form in which the intellectual content of the work is expressed. It protects the "original expression" of the author’s ideas or information, but does not prevent the use of the same idea or information.

Copyright exists in works and other subject matter by virtue of the Copyright Act 1968. The Act protects original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, sound recordings, and radio and television broadcasts and published editions of works.

Government records and copyright

The Commonwealth, State or Territory is the owner of copyright in all work created by or under the direction or control of a Commonwealth, State or Territory. This includes works created by authors who are employed or contracted by the government.

The South Australian Government is the owner of copyright for most of the works held by State Records. Under the Copyright Act 1968, the majority of these are considered to be literary works. State Records does not hold copyright for, and cannot provide permission to publish, most of the works in its archival collection, as it does not own the majority of its collection.

State Records can:

  • help you establish if something is subject to Crown copyright
  • tell you which government agency you should approach for permission to publish unpublished government records, and
  • help you understand your responsibilities under the Copyright Act 1968.

It is a researcher’s responsibility to:

  • approach the government department or agency to obtain the necessary permission
  • explain the purpose of their work to the copyright owner, and
  • obtain the approval required.

When is a record in copyright?

The period for which records remain in copyright will vary, depending on the nature of the record. Unpublished material remains in copyright unless published. As a result of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, the period of protection for most material (except government material) was extended on 1 January 2005. There is no revival of copyrights that had already been expired by that date.

Duration of copyright

Copyright of literary works continues for 70 years after the author’s death when published and 70 years after publication when work is unpublished.

Where the work was made or first published by a State or Territory, copyright continues for 50 years after the work was created and continues indefinitely in cases where the work is unpublished.

As the majority of the work held by State Records is unpublished and likely to remain so, copyright will continue indefinitely. See the table below for details of duration of copyright for various types of work.

 

Type of work Publication
status
Copyright has
expired if…
Protection period
(if work still in copyright
on 1 January 2005)
     
PRIVATE COPYRIGHT
CROWN COPYRIGHT
Literary, dramatic
or musical works

Published

First published or
author died before
1st January 1955

70 years from
end of year of
authors death

50 years from end
of year of first
publication

 

Published
posthumous

First published before
1st January 1955

70 years from end of
year of first publication

N/A

  Unpublished N/A Indefinite Indefinite
Artistic works
including
maps and plans
N/A Created before
1st January 1955
or creator died
before 1st January
1955
70 years from end
of year of creator’s
death
50 years from
end of publication
Photographs, maps
and plans created
before 1st May 1969

Published

Made before 1st January 1955

70 years from end
of year of creator’s
death

50 years from
end of year in
which item was
created

  Unpublished N/A Indefinite Indefinite
Photographs, maps
and plans created
after 1st May 1969

Published

N/A (Still protected by
copyright at 1st January 2005)

N/A (Still protected by copyright
at 1st January 2005)

50 years from
end of year of
first publication
  Unpublished N/A N/A Indefinite

For further information on copyright see the Australian Copyright Council www.copyright.org.au or refer to the Copyright Act 1968.

 

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