Copyright is unlike a patent. You must apply for a patent and the granting of it is not guaranteed. The moment you create a piece of work copyright exists automatically. Copyright protects the expression of an idea; not the idea itself.

Copyright is the Expression of the Idea


Copyright subsists in any of the following when fixed in a tangible medium:

  • literary works (including computer software, business documentation);
  • typographical arrangements (fonts);
  • musical works;
  • dramatic works;
  • pictorial, graphic and sculptural works;
  • films, videos, broadcasts and cable and satellite programs; and
  • sound recordings.

A tangible medium is any material object in which work exists. Some examples include paper, film, records, compact discs and magnetic tape.

Pencils and Paints - Protecting Literary and Artistic Works with Copyright

Some works do not meet the definition of work of authorship and are not copyrightable. Examples of such works include:

  • impromptu speeches which are not fixed in a tangible medium;
  • titles and other short phrases; and
  • ideas, methods and concepts.

A work is “created” when it is fixed in a tangible medium from which the work can be perceived, either directly or by means or a machine such as MP3 or CD player, a computer, a film projector, or a hard-disk player.

For copyright purposes, the most important types of work of authorship to the corporate manager are literary works. “Literary works” include works as diverse as books, poems, magazine articles and computer programs and directories. Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works include words such as paintings, photographs, maps, statues, blueprints, toys and jewellery. Businesses also have copyright in the manuals; they create, client lists and other materials. A “sound recording” is a recorded rendition of work as contrasted to the underlying work, which itself may also be the subject of copyright. Protection of some works is not only by copyright but also by registered designs or by the relatively new unregistered design right.


Copyright belongs to the author of the work except in the case of work made by an employee, in which case the owner is the employer. One exception is if work is conducted for the Federal Government. In this case, copyright, unless agreed to the contrary, passes to the Federal Government.



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Learn more about Intellectual Property from Steven Brown at Smart Thinking Parramatta