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Protecting your copyright

Curtin’s Intellectual Property Policy and Intellectual Property Procedures prescribe who owns copyright in works created by Curtin staff and students.

Curtin students own the copyright in their work (including most theses). Staff who want to copy or communicate students’ work need to obtain their permission – a sample student permission form is available.

The University owns the copyright in course materials and computer works created by staff and in some other cases (e.g. University-commissioned works). Generally the University does not claim ownership of other copyright works created by staff but instead claims a non-exclusive, royalty-free licence to use the work for educational and research purposes.

Staff requiring clarification on whether they or the University own the copyright in a work should consult the Intellectual Property Policy and Intellectual Property Procedures.

Copyright notices

Although it is not required, it is a good practice to indicate your copyright ownership on any work you create by including a copyright notice. For hardcopy publications, the copyright notice appears on the inside of the front cover or within the first few pages of the publication. For electronic material, it is common practice for the copyright notice to appear under its own heading, either at the start of the document or at the end.

The notice should include the copyright symbol, your name, the year you created or published the work, your contact details and any conditions of use you wish to impose. For example:

© Copyright – J. Bloggs – 2014
PO Box 1234, Perth, Western Australia 6155
All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.

When specifying ‘conditions of use’, you should consider carefully what it is that you wish others to do if they want to reproduce your work, in full or in part.

Conditions of use examples are listed below, but you may want to seek further advice from Legal & Compliance Services.

  • No part of this site may be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the specific written permission of the copyright owner first hand and obtained.
  • Permission is hereby granted to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction at educational institutions provided that the article is used in full and this copyright notice is reproduced. Any other usage is expressly prohibited without the express permission of the copyright owner.
  • This publication is protected by copyright and may be used as permitted by the Copyright Act 1968 provided appropriate acknowledgement of the source is published.

You may want to consider using a Creative Commons licence or another open access licence to provide more permitted uses than what is mandated by the Copyright Act.

Assigning your copyright

Copyright owners can elect to assign their copyright to someone else, a publisher for example. Assignment means that ownership of the copyright is transferred. If you assign the copyright in your work to a publisher, you will no longer be the copyright owner. Moral rights remain with an author, even though he or she may have assigned copyright in a work to someone else. Generally, moral rights will last as long as the copyright in the work concerned.

You should consider carefully whether you wish to assign your rights, as you may later find yourself in a position where you must seek copyright clearance from the publisher to use your work elsewhere, and in some cases pay a fee for that use. You may wish to consider other options, such as licensing your work or retaining some of your rights (e.g. the right to deposit a copy in an electronic repository). You are strongly advised to seek legal advice as to the terms and conditions of any publishing contract you are asked to sign.

If you have previously signed a publishing contract, you should obtain and keep a copy of it. If you wish to have your work included in an online repository you will need to check the publisher agreement for what rights you have assigned and what rights you have retained. A useful guide to the current default policies of publishers regarding copyright is available at SHERPA.

Curtin staff should note that, under the terms of the University’s Intellectual Property Policy and Intellectual Property Procedures, if they assign their copyright ownership to a commercial enterprise, they are required to notify the University in writing. Once copyright ownership has been assigned in this way, the University’s licence to use the copyright work is terminated.

Licensing your copyright

Licensing work can allow you to can retain your copyright ownership while allowing the licensee the right to use your work in a particular way. If you opt to license your work, do so in writing, in the form of a contract. Preferably legal advice should be sought.

Copyright can be licensed in various ways:

  • Exclusive licence:
    Under an exclusive licence the licensee is the only person who can use the work in the way covered by the licence. For example, in a book publishing agreement you might grant the publisher an exclusive licence to print and publish your novel; you are not entitled to license anyone else to publish the same novel during the period of the licence.
  • Non-exclusive licence:
    If you grant a non-exclusive right to do something with your work, you may continue to use your work in that way yourself and you can also grant other people non-exclusive licences to use your work in that way. For example, if you granted a non-exclusive licence to a publisher to reproduce your illustrations in a book, you may also grant other publishers the same non-exclusive licence, and you may reproduce the illustrations yourself.
  • Implied licence:
    In some cases, permission from a copyright owner to use copyright material may be implied from the circumstances. This is the basis on which most letters to the editor are published in a newspaper – the publisher will in general be entitled to imply a licence from you to publish the letter.

If you submit work to a publisher on a speculative basis, you should take steps to ensure that the publisher does not go ahead and publish your work on the basis of an implied licence. To avoid this, you should include with any work you submit to a publisher, a covering letter to the publisher outlining either the terms on which you are offering a licence to publish, or explaining that the work is submitted for the publisher’s consideration only – if the publisher is interested, they should contact you to negotiate the terms.