Determine whether a copyright permission is necessary

It is your responsibility to determine whether the work you want to copy or re-use requires copyright permission. Permission from the copyright owner may be necessary where:

  • the material you wish to copy is protected by copyright
  • your copying is not insubstantial
  • your copying does not fall within an exception in the Copyright Act.

To determine the copyright status of the work you want to copy, we suggest that you first try searching for the work in the National Library Catalogue or on Trove and follow the 'Check copyright status' link. Please note, however, that the copyright status information on Trove is a computer-generated estimate and is not legal advice.

When you are determining whether permission is required, do not forget that multiple copyrights can subsist in the same item. This includes, for instance, where a book includes photographs or illustrations that have separate copyright from the text, potentially requiring you to obtain more than one permission.

If in doubt, it may be best to assume that a work is in copyright and that you need to get permission.

Get permission

If permission is required, you will need to find the copyright owner. To help protect yourself against legal action, you should seek to obtain the copyright owner's permission in writing before you copy or re-use the work. The copyright owner has the right to refuse you permission, to set conditions and/or to ask you to pay a fee for permission.

If you need the Library to undertake the copying for you, and your request does not fall within an exception in the Copyright Act, a Library staff member will need to see evidence of the copyright owner's permission before the copy is made.

Adhere to moral rights

You also have a responsibility to ensure that your copying or re-use of a work does not infringe moral rights. For instance, you should credit the work using the author(s) preferred form(s) of attribution. If the author is not known, then 'author unknown' is an appropriate description. 'Anonymous' should be used where the author intended not to be identified. In no circumstances should you credit the work to someone else or to yourself. You should not treat the work in a derogatory way.

What happens if I infringe copyright?

In cases of copyright infringement, it is usual for the copyright owner to contact the alleged infringer to explain the nature of their complaint. Many disputes are resolved at this stage, and pointing to your good faith may help in such negotiations. However, if you do infringe copyright, the owner has the right to sue you, and a court may order a variety of remedies. Under current law, it is no defence to say that you did not know you were infringing copyright or that you used reasonable efforts to locate the copyright owner. That said, the Copyright Act also makes certain activities a criminal offence.