In order to be able to fully protect your own creative work, you must understand what copyright is and where it comes from, what is does and does not apply to, what your rights are and who governs those rights.

What is copyright?
The Oxford Dictionary defines copyright as ‘The exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.’

Where did it originate?
The idea of copyright originated from philosopher John Locke’s theory of property. Locke’s belief was that, “every man has a ‘property’ in his own ‘person’…[and that]…the labor of his body and the work of his hands… are properly his (Tavani, 2005).” In layman’s terms, Locke theorised that the product of a person’s labor is justly owned by them, as they chose to work to make that product. There has been some debate over whether Locke’s belief extends to Intellectual Property Rights as well. There are many philosophers on either side of the debate, but it all depends on what you define as ‘labor.’ For example, Easterbrook (1990) argues that intellectual property is ‘‘no less the fruit of one’s labor than is physical property (Tavani, 2005).’’

What is Intellectual Property?
It is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as, “Intangible property that is the result of creativity, such as patents, copyrights, etc.”

How do I copyright my own work?
In Australia, copyright is governed under the Copyright 1968 Act (Cth). What many people don’t know, is that you don’t actually need to do anything for your work to be covered by Copyright. As soon as your work is created, it is protected. However, you need to be clear about what specifically is covered. Copyright covers the way an idea is expressed, rather than the idea itself. For example, if you made a movie, then the script for that movie would be under copyright, however the idea itself is not. A good example of this is Quentin Tarantino’s Killbill films. This video shows a number of scenes that were taken from other movies and recreated by Tarantino.

Only in certain situations does copyright not apply. These are:

  • Fair dealing for research and study;
  • Fair dealing for review and criticism;
  • Fair dealing for reporting the news;
  • Fair dealing for legal advice; and
  • Fair dealing for parody and satire.

How do I give people the license to use my work?
There are a number of companies that who will be the middle man (for lack of a better term) between the copyright owner and someone who may want to use the copyrighted work. For music, there is APRA AMCOS, who are a non-profit organisation who will sell the license to businesses or people who want to use your work, and the money comes back to you. There is also PPCA, who do the same for sound recordings.

I have done a lot of Foley work this Trimester (please see this blog for Project One and this blog for a Side Project relating to games). This means that all of the SoundFX I have created are by law, Copyrighted by me. You may be confused as to how this works, as obviously they would just be day-to-day sounds. For example, to make a bullet noise, I combined the sounds of smashing glass and throwing a tin can against a wall. If somebody else were to do this and claim it as their own work, that would be a breach of copyright. They can however, make their own bullet sounds in a different way. As you can see, the way the idea is expressed is protected, but not the idea itself.

After reading I hope you are all a lot more informed about what copyright is and how it works. Thanks for reading!


Tavani, H. T. (2005). Locke, intellectual property rights, and the information commons. Ethics and Information Technology, 7(2), 87.


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