Mitchell Library Reading Room temporarily closed Tuesday 12 December 2017. More info
Determine whether a copyright permission is necessary
It is your responsibility to determine whether the work you want to copy 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; and
- 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 State Library of New South Wales catalogues to see if there is a rights statement for that specific work. Or you could search for the work 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. More information on identifying and locating copyright owners is set out on our How do I find copyright owners? page.
For more information on the circumstances in which permission from the copyright owner is not required, see our What can I copy without the copyright owner's permission? page. If in doubt, it may be best to assume that a work is in copyright and that you need to get permission.
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 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 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 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 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. The Australian Copyright Council’s Infringement information sheet has more information.