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Copyright: Copyright for Students

Understanding Copyright

Understanding copyright
University of South Australia. ©2018

What can I copy as a student?

The Copyright Act has some sections called the "fair dealing" sections. One of these sections relates to fair dealing for research and study. This section says that you may copy a "reasonable portion" of a literary, dramatic or musical work for your own research and study.

According to the Act, a reasonable portion is:

  • 10% or one chapter of a book,
  • one article from any one issue of a periodical, or
  • one chapter or 10% of the number of words for resources in digital format.

For artistic work, video and sound recordings, there is no simple rule as to how much you can copy for research and study purposes. In deciding whether copying an audio-visual item will constitute fair dealing, the Copyright Act doesn't define fair dealing precisely, but states that the following fairness factors are to be considered:

  • the purpose and character of the dealing;
  • the nature of the audio-visual item;
  • the possibility of obtaining the audio-visual item within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price;
  • the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of, the audio-visual item; and
  • in a case where only part of the item is copied - the amount and substantiality of the part copied taken in relation to the whole item.

Research and study includes assessment, so you may include fair portions of works in your assignments, projects and theses, provided that you attribute the sources properly.  The copyright situation gets more complicated if your project or thesis will be distributed beyond your assessors.  

Moral rights

There are legal obligations to attribute creators and treat their work with respect. These creators’ rights are known as ‘moral rights’.

They mean you must:

  • attribute (give credit to) the creator;
  • not say a person is a creator of a work when they’re not;
  • not do something with a work (such as change or add to it) that would have a negative impact on the creator’s reputation.

What about the internet?

If you want to use material found on the web for your research and study, you may do so under the fair dealing provisions. You are restricted to using the material for that purpose only unless the website states otherwise.

Is it OK to download music and movies?

Music and movies available for download from websites or through peer to peer networks may be in the form of illegal copies, which infringe copyright.  If you come across a website offering downloads from many different bands and artists for nothing or a very small fee, then they are unlikely to be legitimate copies.

Using SAE's equipment to download, upload, share or store music or movies without the permission of the copyright owner is a breach of the rules, and may cause you to be involved in disciplinary action, and to have your account suspended.  You will also be vulnerable to prosecution.

Mashups, Memes, Remixes & Copyright

See the Fact Sheet by the Australian Copyright Council if you are using other people's audio, images, video and text to create new works.