Welcome to the Absolute Idiot's Guide to Intellectual Property. Hopefully, the information contained within is easy to follow, and will help keep you on the straight and narrow for this important legal principle!

What is intellectual property?

IP Australia, the Federal Government department which manages IP in Australia, defines it as:
Intellectual property represents the property of your mind or intellect. In business terms, this also means your proprietary knowledge. (accessed 26/03/2008)

There are many different types of intellectual property. These include
·patents for new or improved products or processes;
·trade marks for letters, words, phrases, sounds, smells, shapes, logos, pictures, aspects of packaging or a combination of these, to distinguish the goods and services of one trader from those of another;
·designs for the shape or appearance of manufactured goods;
·copyright for original material in literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works, films, broadcasts, multimedia and computer programs;
·circuit layout rights for the three-dimensional configuration of electronic circuits in integrated circuit products or layout designs;
·plant breeder's rights for new plant varieties; and
·confidentiality/trade secrets including know-how and other confidential or proprietary information. (accessed 26/03/2008)

You can follow the links to each of the types of intellectual property to find out more about each of them.

IP Australia has a glossary of related terms on it’s website: (accessed 26/03/2008)

Why is it important?

Like all people, creators of intellectual property want and should be rewarded for their efforts. As a teacher, do you want to be recognised and rewarded in some way for the intellectual property you create, or, do you want other people to use the material without your consent and without you being rewarded for your effort?

The primary purpose of copyright is to provide an incentive for people to produce new works for the benefit of society as a whole. The incentive is created by the opportunity to be paid when other people use and disseminate those works. Copyright can also reward people who create works without expecting payment, when their works end up being used by others.
(accessed 15/04/2008)

Mostly, within teaching, the type of intellectual property that you will come across is Copyright, so this page will concentrate on that.

Copyright law in Australia

In Australia, Copyright is governed by two specific Acts; these are the Copyright Act (Cth) 1968, and the Copyright (Digital Agenda) Act (Cth) 2000. For the full text of these Acts, follow the links:

The Copyright Act (Cth) 1968 (accessed 15/04/2008)

The Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000 (accessed 15/04/2008)

There are provisions in these Acts which allow students to access and use materials for their studies; these are referred to as the Fair Dealing provisions.

A person can make a “fair dealing” with copyright material for any of the following purposes:
research or study;
• criticism or review;
• parody or satire;
• reporting news; or
• professional advice by a lawyer, patent attorney or trade marks attorney. (accessed 15/04/2008)

For more information (in plain English!) about these provisions, see the relevant information sheet from the Copyright Council (above).

These provisions, though, do not cover teachers.

There are, however, provisions for educational institutions and teachers. These, though, are licenced through the relevant Collecting Society. A collecting society, (usually a private company) is an organization whichhas been granted permission to act in this way by the Federal Government. Below the most common licences are described; these are the kinds of licences that an educational institution or teacher needs to have. Depending on the content being taught, more than one licence may be required. These are sometimes referred to as ‘blanket licences’ (accessed 15/04/2008).

The three most used licences are:

Print/Electronic Resources – managed by Copyright Agency Limited
“CAL is the declared collecting society for the reproduction and communication of works by educational institutions under the statutory licence set out in Part VB of the Copyright Act”

Television and Video – managed by Screenrights Australia
Screenrights administers the statutory licences which allow educational institutions to copy and communicate, and governments to copy, material from radio and television on behalf of film producers and distributors, script writers and music copyright owners. Screenrights may also be able to help with identifying and finding copyright owners of audiovisual material.

Music – managed by APRA
Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) administers the rights of public performance and communication to the public of music and lyrics for composers, music publishers and other copyright owners. In particular, it provides licences for live and recorded music and lyrics to be performed publicly, for example in pubs, clubs, restaurants and shops, and also licenses radio and TV stations, webcasters and organisations playing music on hold. APRA can also assist in identifying and finding owners of copyright in music and lyrics.

The descriptions of these societies are from the Copyright Council’s brochure on copyright collecting societies, available from their webpage: (accessed 15/04/2008)

There are other collecting societies for other groups of creators; for example, visual artists. More information about them is also available from the Copyright Council: (accessed 15/04/2008)

However – each Institute of TAFE has licences with the appropriate collection society. For more information, contact your Institute Library.

Breaches of the Act

As with all Acts, breaches of the Copyright Act are dealt with by the courts. With copyright being a Federal Act, the initial hearing of the matter will usually be undertaken by the Federal Magistrate’s Court. If the matter is not settled in this court, the case can be referred to the Federal Court. In the event of appeal, the matter can go to the High Court of Australia.

As with all criminal offences, the penalty is decided by the Magistrate or Justice hearing the case. Currently, the maximum penalty for a breach of copyright is a fine of $60 500, and/or five years in jail. In the event of a conviction being recorded, (and sometimes even when there is no conviction recorded) a civil suit can also be launched; this is usually aimed at recovering losses of earnings that the Copyright owner has lost as a result of the breach. The amount awarded is at the discretion of the presiding Magistrate or Justice.

The Code of Conduct – Department of Education, Training and the Arts, Queensland.

The Department’s Code of Conduct is available from the link below. If you are not employed by the Department of Education, Training and the Arts (Queensland), please consult your employer’s own code of conduct, or similar document. (accessed 15/04/2008)

The Code of Conduct is a most important document to consider; it controls all behaviour of TAFE staff, including teachers. Particularly, section 1.2.1:

1.2.1 Each of us has an obligation to:
·respect the rule of law and our system of parliamentary democracy by upholding:
oCommonwealth, State and Local laws and regulations including any local area alcohol management plan restrictions such as in remote Indigenous communities
oapplicable professional standards and codes of practice that do not conflict with government or departmental policy
oDepartment of Education, Training and the Arts and whole-of-government directives, policies and procedures
oapplicable industrial awards and agreements
·respond prudently to known breaches of the law, departmental policies, whole-of-government policies and directives, as well as misconduct and maladministration. (Refer to the glossary for definitions of misconduct and maladministration)
·impartially administer legislation on behalf of the Minister for Education, Training and the Arts
·faithfully implement the policies and mandate of the elected government
·provide responsive service to the community and impartial advice to the government of the day
·adhere to caretaker conventions when a Queensland state election is called
·observe the convention of political neutrality in the performance of our duties
·respect the principle of equality before the law and extend due and fair process to individuals and organisations
·comply with lawful and reasonable directions from your supervisor, a delegated authority, or your employing authority
·make decisions and give reasonable and lawful directions within our delegated authority
·strive to create and implement high-quality education services that are consistent with government policy
·advance student learning and the public interest
·be familiar with legislation, regulations, (professional) codes or standards that are relevant to our work role
·provide information and assistance to parliamentary committees or inquiries where required to do so under the Parliamentary Committees Act 1995. (accessed 15/04/2008)

Not following the provisions of the Copyright Act is a breach of the Code of Conduct, and will be treated as such. So, not only will the teacher who has breached the Act be subject to the penalties provided for in the Act and potentially civil penalties as well, (as described above), but will also be subject to penalties which may be applied through the Code, including termination of employment.

Selecting appropriate resources

Therefore – there are many things to consider when selecting resources. Not only are quality, pedagogy, learning styles important, but also whether or not the material is legal to be used in the learning situation. Is there an appropriate licence or legal provision which covers the use of the material, or will permission need to be sought before the material can be used? For assistance in determining the appropriate course of action, consult your Institute Library.


TAFE Queensland’s new Learning Management System (My.TAFE) and the Learning Content Management System (ResourceBank) are both subject to the provisions of the Copyright Act. Particularly, a learning object cannot be uploaded into ResourceBank (and hence linked into My.TAFE) unless all of the copyright permissions are in place and can be demonstrated. These permissions become part of the file, and ResourceBank will not upload a file without the permissions. For assistance in gaining permissions or uploading material into ResourceBank, consult your Institute Library.


Australian Copyright Council (2008) What is copyright law for and where does it come from? Retrieved April 15, 2008 from

Australian Copyright Council (2008) Fair Dealing Provisions Retrieved April 15, 2008 from

Australian Copyright Council (2008) Education and teaching. Retrieved April 15, 2008 from

Australian Copyright Council (2008) Permissions, compliance and infringement Retrieved April 15, 2008 from

Commonwealth of Australia (2007) Copyright Act 1968. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from

Commonwealth of Australia (2007) Copyright (Digital Agenda) Act 1968. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from

Department of Education, Training and the Arts (Queensland) (2008) Code of Conduct. Retrieved April 15, 2008 from

Department of Education, Training and the Arts (Queensland) (2008) Code of Conduct: Principle 1: Respect for the law and the system of Government. Retrieved April 15, 2008 from

IP Australia (2008) Introduction. Retrieved March 26, 2008 from

IP Australia (2008) Glossary. Retrieved March 26, 2008 from

TAFE Queensland (2007) Library Network. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from</span

For real property in TX, click here.