What types of works does the Copyright Act cover?

What sort of works does the Copyright Act cover?

The Copyright Act 1968 divides materials eligible for protection into two categories:

  • 'Works' (literary, artistic, dramatic and musical)
  • 'Materials other than works' (sound recordings, films, TV and radio broadcasts, and published editions).

Generally, 'works' relate to the skill and labour of the creator, whereas 'materials other than works' relate to the investment of a producer. The category of 'Works' (contained in Part III of the Copyright Act 1968) is thus afforded a wider range of protective measures than those in the category of 'Materials other than works' (Part IV).

Most forms of writing including books, letters, novels, articles, song lyrics, instruction manuals, newspaper articles and journal articles. The literary category of works also includes computer programs, although the statutory licence does not cover the reproduction of computer programs. There are provisions in the Copyright Act referring specifically to the reproduction of computer programs (see s47AB-s47H).

Includes paintings, drawings, photographs, engravings, sculpture, buildings, models of buildings, and technical and diagrammatic representations. There is no requirement of artistic merit in the categorisation of a work as 'artistic'.

Includes dances, plays, film scripts, or broadly any work that is intended to be performed.

Includes symphonies and popular songs. There is no definition of a 'musical work' in the Copyright Act 1968; however the work must be original, and there must be some measure of skill and labour in creating the work and not just copied from another work. Lyrics are included in 'literary' works.

Covers any form used to record sound - CD, tapes, vinyl records and digital recordings. These sounds are covered separately to any copyright in a work recorded, such as music or a story.

The aggregate of visual images as well as sounds embodied in the soundtrack. This category includes everything from home movies to feature films. The script of the movie is protected as a literary work.

Covers the signals and sounds of an item broadcast by radio, TV or some satellite broadcasters. The educational statutory licence covers the reproduction and communication of broadcasts, including podcasts of previously broadcasted material, for teaching purposes.

Protects the particular typesetting and typographical arrangement of work. The statutory licence for the reproduction and communication of text and graphic works specifically excludes the published edition copyright.


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