Researchers and Copyright

Copyright and research are heavily tied together, for example research using resources, and publication of research. Both have copyright implications.

Context is important in copyright, what you can do personally at home, legally, is different to the rights you have as researchers, and rights you have as an author publishing your research. Understanding what you intend to do with someone else’s copyright material is as important as the material itself.

Early stage research

In the early stages of research it is likely to be literature reviews, some data or text mining, and general background research. Much of this a Researcher will access via fair dealing for research and study.

There are two ways to work out what is fair under fair dealing for research and study. Firstly a set amount for copyright material that can easily be calculated, such as text based material.

  • 10% of the number of pages (if its text or sheet music and is more than 10 pages long).
  • One chapter (if its divided into chapters) either printed or electronic.
  • An article from a newspaper, magazine or journal (or more than one if it is for the same course of research or study).
  • 10% of the number of words in an electronic work (e.g. Internet).

Secondly a judgement call on what is being copied (photos, images, film etc) and what it is being used for (how much, what type of material is it).

  • Small amount of music to illustrate a technique, an image to demonstrate a skill, diagram to show where parts go together.
  • A whole image or diagram, 30 seconds of a piece of music, a minute of a film.
  • Is the material available for purchase?
  • Will using the material affect sales of the original copyright material.
  • How much are you copying, and how important or distinctive is the piece.

Fair Dealing Obligations

As part of using copyright material under any of the fair dealing rights, the obligation is to reference where the material came from. The legislation does not stipulate how this must be done, simply that is must be done. A citation list or bibliography, a credits list at the end of a video, verbal thanks at the end of a recital or music program. A reference slide at the end of a PowerPoint, clickable link under the image are all considered suitable acknowledgement.

An important obligation for fair dealing for research and study, is that the material can only be used for personal use. You cannot publish other people copyright material if you obtained it under fair dealing for research and study.

Open Access

There are many resources available on the internet that can be used differently than fair dealing for research and study. Their generic term is Open Access or Creative Commons licensed materials. These materials are available because the copyright owner has chosen to release some or all of their suite of rights.

Using open access resources enables you to use more than the limits required under fair dealing for research and study, and also allows other uses, such as putting material on the internet. Using ‘CC’ or ‘Creative Commons’ when conducting a search is particularly good when you need illustrative images or music for your work.

There are many ways to search for open access materials, a good starting point is to search the Creative Commons website.

Open Access/Creative Commons Obligations

The creator chooses which licence to release their work under, so obligations will vary.  Always check the licence first by searching the Creative Commons Use & ReMix database.

Open access still requires attribution using any of the following, which are all considered suitable acknowledgement or attribution:

  • a citation list
  • bibliography
  • credits list at the end of a video
  • verbal thanks at the end of a recital or music program
  • reference slide at the end of a PowerPoint
  • clickable link under the image

The ACU library can always assist in the early research stages. See Beginning your research.

Research funding

Your research funding contract may also contain stipulations on how you keep your research data and publish your findings, which may have copyright implications.  Ensure you are familiar with the copyright requirements of any research funding.

Publishing your findings

The copyright on your published findings is a very important decision to make.

There are two major considerations when deciding on the best way to exert your copyright rights. (see Copyright basics for a review of the suite of rights).

  1. Stipulations in your  funding contract regarding Copyright.
  2. The extent of and use of other people’s copyright material in your work. You will require clearances for all of this material, unless it has been already cleared.

You can contact the research office and/or the Library to discuss your publishing options.

For specific copyright questions you can contact the Copyright Manager who is available to discuss and resolve any copyright concerns:

Telephone: (02) 6209 1237

Additional resources

More generic resources are available at:

Page last updated: 23 Feb 2017

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