Who has copyright?

The basic rule is that the author of the work is the first owner of copyright.  For example, the author and first copyright owner is the person who wrote the material for the pamphlet or article, the person who took the photograph, or the person who made the video.  However, there are instances when the author and owner of the copyright is not the same person.  In these cases, the author is the person who creates the work and the copyright owner is the person who owns the rights in the work.  For example, an employee who writes a series of information sheets is the author and the employer is the copyright owner.

Work created by freelancers under a commissioned agreement generally places copyright with the person creating the work (the freelancer). The organisation receiving the work has a licence to use it, unless, by agreement, copyright ownership is assigned to that organisation (i.e. commissioning agency).  The agreement must be in writing and signed by all parties.  The author of a photograph is the person who took the photograph.  However, if the photograph was commissioned for a private or domestic purpose, the client is the copyright owner, unless agreed otherwise.

When an employee of an association completes work in the course of his or her employment, the association generally has the copyright.  For example, if an employee writes a newsletter for the association, or an employee designs and produces a poster, the association owns the copyright.  

Volunteers, however, usually keep copyright of any material that they create, and the association or organisation will normally have a licence or permission to use the relevant material.  If an association is unsure or concerned about this, they should seek specific legal advice.

It is often worthwhile to deal with copyright issues at the time materials are being produced. Associations that receive funding to produce a work (for example, a research report) should check what the funding agreement says about copyright.  It is possible for an association to produce some wonderful publications and resources, only to find out that the funding arrangement transfers copyright ownership to the funding body.

Infringing copyright

Copyright gives the copyright owner exclusive right to control the copying and distribution of copyrighted work.  Copyright is infringed when the exclusive rights of the owner are violated, such as when a copyrighted work is copied, reproduced and used without the owner's permission.  This includes downloading, copying and printing material from the Internet. To avoid infringement, it is necessary to obtain permission to copy and use the material from the appropriate person or organization, that is, the copyright owner.

There are some exceptions to copyright infringement.  In the education area, allowances are made to use copyright materials for research and study without permission, although there are still limits on how this can occur.  Only a portion of the material may be used and it must be used for non-commercial purposes.  Therefore, an association may use educational material within those limits for delivering community education programmes, without permission and without infringing copyright.

Community associations often share information with each other, and allow other associations to reproduce material, as long as proper acknowledgement is given.  It is important to understand that the permission to use all or part of a work cannot be assumed, even if acknowledgement is made.  This is particularly the case if the material is going to be part of a bigger work to be sold for profit.  Permission granted for one purpose is not permission to use the material for other purposes.

Some materials will detail in the work itself how the work can and can't be reproduced, in which case permission can be implied as long as the conditions are followed.

An association has received $10,000 to set up a website to promote its projects and the community.  The website consists of information sheets, a newsletter 'Progress', photographs and other promotional information.  The Association includes the following notice on its website.

'All information and material including the newsletter, information sheets, photographs and graphics that appear on this website are protected by the Copyright Act 1968.  The Copyright belongs to the Association.  Apart from fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, criticism and review as allowed by the Copyright Act, no material may be reproduced without the permission of the Management Council.'