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Archival Research

Copyright law in Australia

Copyright is a form of intellectual property which grants the copyright owner a monopoly over how their work can be used.  In Australia, the rights of creators and users of copyright material are enshrined in the Copyright Act 1968.

Copyright protection is free and automatic, you do not have to register material for it to be protected.

What copyright protects?

For content to be protected by copyright it must be:

  • in material form, it cannot simply be an idea expressed verbally, and
  • be created by a human being.

This means copyright protects material like journal articles, books, book chapters, conference papers, personal diaries, meeting minutes, letters, music, sound recordings, artworks, TV broadcasts, films, videos and webpages. These can either be published or unpublished;online or in print.

The important thing to remember is if you are not sure if something is protected by copyright, start by assuming it is.

Read the following introduction to get a general overview of copyright:

 Video length: 2 min. 52 sec.

Citing Archival Materials

While studying at UniSA, you will be required to cite your use of Archival Material.

The University utilises a custom citation style called 'Harvard UniSA'. Specific examples of how to present in-text and reference list entries for a range of information formats are detailed in the Referencing Roadmap; including referencing general print archival materials. For examples on how to cite other types of archival materials, either:

  • consult other relevant entries in the Roadmap (ie for artworks etc) and combine the details with those required for Archival Materials; or
  • refer to the referencing guide from Leeds. Be aware however that this guide provides advice per the 'generic' Harvard style however, so you will need to slightly adapt it to suit the UniSA style, by including relevant bibliographical material in the same order and formatting as in the Roadmap

The crucial element is that the reader is clearly directed to the source of the information/material.

Your rights as a content creator

As a potential creator of copyright content you have certain rights protected by the Copyright Act which are important to be aware of.

You have the right to:

  • Choose how and by who your work is used.
  • Use your work in certain ways.
  • Make money from your material.
  • Be acknowledged as the creator of your material.

These rights also extend to other creators of copyright content, which is important to keep in mind when using works created by others.

Find out more about creator rights by reading these short guides:

Using copyrighted material as a professional

As either archivists or researchers you can rely on certain exceptions in the Copyright Act 1968 to copy material for research, preservation or administration of the collection without asking permission.

These exceptions, outlined in the following boxes, are:

Fair dealing - Researching and copyright

As an individual researcher you can copy limited amounts of copyrighted material, like text, images, sound and film, for your personal research or study using the Fair dealing provision (exception) in the Copyright Act.

When using material under this exception you need to make a judgment about whether your use is considered fair. Ask yourself:

  • Is this for commercial purposes? Though keep in mind that just because you may not be using it for profit, does not make it automatically fair.
  • Will the copyright owner be out of pocket from your use?

Learn more here:

Preservation provisions

Libraries open to the public, Parliamentary libraries, cultural institutions and archives can copy material, such as books or audio-visual material, for the purposes of preservation.

Learn more here:

Copying material without permission

Besides using the Fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act, you may also be able to copy material without obtaining permission if it is:

Out of copyright

A work is considered out of copyright if copyright in the work has expired. Just be aware that terms of protection do vary for different types of works and across jurisdictions. However, generally copyright lasts for the life of the creator +70 years.

For help determining if material is out of copyright see:

The copyright owner may also choose to relinquish their rights, making their material available in the public domain. You can tell if something is in the public domain if it states:

"Public domain"  or  "No rights reserved"  or  "CCO 1.0"

See examples of images in the public domain below:

 Multicolored hallway The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Purple pipette Wooden ladder by bookshelf Metal gears

Creative Commons licenses

You can copy material without seeking permission if it is licensed under Creative Commons, which is an open licensing scheme. Creative Commons licensing allows people to share content they have created easily using on of six available licenses.

To learn more about these licenses, read or watch:

 Video length: 1 min. 44 sec.

Orphan works

Orphan works is a term used to refer to material still protected by copyright but where a creator and/or copyright owner can't be identified and contacted for permission to reuse the work.

This does not mean that you cannot reuse the material but you should have evidence of having undertaken a comprehensive search to locate the creator or copyright owner. You should also provide a mechanism for the creator or copyright owner to contact you so that you can credit the work appropriately or it can be removed from where it has been published.

To learn more see: