Using less than a substantial part
Copyright issues do not arise unless there is use of a “substantial part” of a copyright work. In the educational sector, it is safe to assume that many uses of copyright material will involve a substantial or important part of a work. However the use of names, titles and headlines is an exception. Where these aspects are part of a greater work, copying of those individual aspects usually will not infringe copyright in the whole work as it would not be considered a substantial part. Names titles and headlines are not protected by copyright as stand-alone works as they are considered so commonplace and unoriginal that copyright is simply not ascribed to them. In addition, using short stand-alone texts (such as slogans or tweets) will often not give rise to copyright issues as they may not be sufficient to be a literary work for copyright purposes.
Where copyright has expired
Copyright does not last for ever. For most types of works, copyright lasts until fifty years from the end of the year in which the author dies. For typographical works, copyright lasts for 25 years from the end of the year of publication. Other types of copyright material have slightly different periods of protection. Material in which copyright has expired is sometimes referred to as being in the “public domain”.
Copying and publishing public domain works. Anyone may copy or publish a public domain work without the need to get permission. Where a public domain work is published (or republished), the publisher owns copyright in the typographical layout of that particular edition and during the period of the publisher’s copyright, may prevent someone else making an exact copy of the edition. However, the copyright in the work itself (such as the story, poem or play) is not revived by the republishing; anyone can still reproduce all or parts of it.
Although the vast majority of works are capable of copyright protection, there are some materials that are not. Under the Copyright Act a few types of “public” documents do not have copyright protection so there is no need to seek permission from copyright owners. The Copyright Act states that there is no copyright in the following:
- • Parliamentary Bills, Acts and regulations;
- • Bylaws;
- • Parliamentary debates;
- • Select Committee reports;
- • Court and tribunal judgements; and
- • Reports of Royal commissions, commissions of inquiry, ministerial or statutory inquiries.
It is important to remember that the format in which some excluded material is published may still be protected by copyright as a typographical arrangement. Copying the published format of such material may in some cases infringe the publisher’s copyright.
Generally, if you have created copyright material which you own, you will not need to get permission to copy. However, care needs to be taken in making assumptions as to who owns certain rights in copyright material, because there may be restrictions on its use. For example, if you created certain material in the course of employment as a lecturer or in accordance with a research contract, your employer or funder may own the copyright or may have imposed conditions on its use.
For teachers, it cannot be assumed that material owned by the Ministry of Education can be used without restriction (although often content may be available under an open access licence). If you have published your own material, any transfer or licence you have granted to a publisher may have an impact on what you can do with the material.