Copyright and intellectual property

Introduction Top

In this section you will develop an understanding of what constitutes good practice in relation to managing your own copyright, respecting the copyright of others and using Creative Commons licences. You will be able to apply your knowledge of copyright, including ownership of intellectual property, to effectively protect your own rights when liaising with publishers.

What is copyright Top

Copyright laws define and protect the rights of a creator of a piece of written or recorded literary or artistic work, such as sound recording, film, art works or written text. Copyright does not apply to ideas or concepts, styles or techniques. Books, conference papers, web pages, computer programs, journal articles, play-scripts, artworks (including book jackets and album covers), videos, music recordings, TV and radio broadcasts are all protected by copyright.

In Australia, you do not have to apply or register to be recognised as a copyright owner of your own work. There is no requirement to put a copyright notice on your work, nor is there a need to formally publish the work for copyright to apply. A copyright owner has an exclusive right to copy/reproduce the work and (if applicable) to perform it publicly. A copyright owner can sell rights to, or prevent others from, reproducing or performing their work. As a general rule, you cannot reproduce (copy) anything for publication, entertainment or sharing purposes, unless you have the copyright owner's permission.

However, under the 'fair dealing' provisions within the Commonwealth Copyright Act 1968 (Copyright Act), individuals are allowed to reproduce limited portions of copyright materials for the purpose of criticism, review, study, research, parody or satire without permission. Fair dealing for research or study applies to your use of other people's copyright material in writing and submitting your thesis for examination.

"Fair dealing" does not apply when copyrighted material is made available on the Internet as it is then considered to be published. Before making your thesis available online, consider whether you want to publish parts of it elsewhere, such as in a journal article or book chapter. After your thesis has been examined, you may be required to submit a print copy of your thesis for the Library collection and a digital copy which will be made publicly available online through QUT ePrints.

Therefore, if you have included material from other people's work in your thesis, you will need to obtain the copyright owner's permission before the digital version is placed online. Citing the source of the material is sufficient for the print copy while it is held in the Library and not available for loan. However, a citation is not sufficient when you are sharing the material online.

You are required to attach written evidence of permissions to your final thesis submission form. If you have not been able to obtain the necessary permission by the time you are ready to submit your thesis, you will need to remove the copyright material from the digital version (it can remain in the print version). The QUT ePrints Copyright Owner Request Form (Word DOC, 12KB) simplifies the process of obtaining permissions.

Copyright and journal articles Top

It is important to understand that copyright also applies to material included in journal articles and conference papers that you have written. You may be asked to assign your copyright to the publisher.

When you submit an article to a journal for peer review and publication, read the publishing agreement provided by the publisher. If the agreement requests that you transfer copyright to the publisher, negotiate retaining some rights for yourself. Such rights might include the right to use the material for research and teaching, or the right to deposit your final manuscript in an open access repository. If you are enrolled in a 'thesis by publication' program, you will automatically have the rights to deposit the full text final manuscript versions of your articles in the digital version of your thesis without requesting publisher permission.

Requests to publish your thesis as a book Top

Thesis authors are often approached to relinquish their work freely by publishers who will then sell the work for profit. Before you decide whether or not to accept an offer to have your thesis published as a book, ask the publisher if they will be contributing proof-reading, copy-editing and typesetting. Also consider the reputation of the publisher in terms of other works they have published and if these are held in academic libraries. If their publications are only theses, be aware that the finished product may have no more status than a self-published book.

If the publisher asks you to transfer copyright, remember that this may prevent you from re-using material in your thesis in future publications. If you decide to proceed, before you sign any contract you must advise the publisher that you have already granted QUT a non-exclusive license to make the thesis available via QUT ePrints. Your thesis is your intellectual property. It is valuable and worth managing carefully as it is preferable to retain your copyright and ownership.

Intellectual property Top

Intellectual property includes patents, trademarks, and designs, copyright for original material, inventions and confidential specialised information.

Early in your candidature even on commencement, consult your supervisor as to whether the research project requires you to complete an Intellectual Property Agreement. This discussion is usually initiated by your supervisor and advice on this agreement is available online.

There is a difference between intellectual property created by students and staff at QUT.

QUT students own the intellectual property that they generate. However, students may need to assign their intellectual property to QUT if a project is externally funded in order to fulfil QUT's legal obligations or has clear commercialisation potential and objectives.

By law, QUT is the owner of intellectual property created by QUT staff during the course of employment (e.g. a laboratory technique whilst doing research at the university), however it does not extend to work done outside employment at QUT (for example a song written in leisure time).

To be sure of rights and obligations regarding intellectual property, read QUT MOPP Policy D/3.1.

Activity - QUT intellectual property policy Top

To help understand and begin to apply Intellectual Property Policy at QUT in an informed way, go to the suite of online resources available in Blackboard, sponsored by the eGrad School. These include modules on research commercialisation and entrepreneurship.

If you see your future as a researcher involving research management, commercialisation and entrepreneurial work, you can acquire a greater depth of knowledge via postgraduate coursework awards (Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma and Masters in Research Management and Commercialisation)

Summary Top

Be mindful of managing your own copyrights and intellectual property, as well as respecting that of others. Familiarising yourself with copyright and intellectual property laws, university policies and publishers' requirements will ensure you can protect your own research and publication.