In broad terms, a copyright owner has the exclusive right to deal in the original copyright work. The Copyright Act 1994 defines the owner’s exclusive rights as ‘restricted acts’, which include:
- copying the work;
- issuing copies of the work to the public, whether by sale or otherwise;
- performing the work in public;
- playing the work in public;
- showing the work in public;
- communicating the work to the public;
- making an adaptation of the work;
- doing any of the above acts in relation to an adaptation of the work; and/or
- authorising another person to do any of the above acts.
At the core, copyright is infringed when another person performs a restricted act without the copyright owner’s consent.
In many cases, the original copyright work is not copied identically or in full. For example, an alleged infringer might only take part of an original musical work for use as a sample or hook in a new song. Copyright is still infringed whether a restricted act is done to the work as a whole, or to any ‘substantial part’ of it.
What amounts to a ‘substantial part’ can be hard to determine, and this concept is more focused on the quality rather than the quantity of what has been copied.
Exceptions to copyright infringement
There are some specific exceptions to copyright infringement. These include ‘parallel importing’ and ‘fair dealing’, which allows for use of copyright works in limited circumstances, such as for criticism, review, news reporting, or various educational purposes. Other specifically identified exceptions are defined in the Copyright Act.
Remedies for infringement
A number of remedies are available for copyright infringement, including injunctions, damages awards, and accounts of profits. For certain types of copyright infringement, such as infringing file sharing, there are separate regimes that offer varying levels of enforcement power to copyright owners.
Copyright infringement can be a complicated issue and threats of infringement should be taken very seriously, both by copyright owners and alleged infringers. If you have any concerns about copyright infringement, please contact one of our experts.