The author’s fundamental right is to decide how their work will be used, subject to some limitations. The law gives authors a set of exclusive rights to do certain activities in relation to their work or to authorise another person to do them. These rights are sometimes referred to as economic rights, because they provide authors with the potential to earn a living from their creative effort if they so wish. These economic rights can be summarised as the right to:
- Copy a work (for example, by photocopying it, copying it by hand, reciting it onto an audio device, digital scanning or any other means);
- Issue copies of the work to the public for the first time (often called the “publishing right”);
- Perform, play or show the work in public;
- Communicate the work to the public (on radio, TV, transmitting electronically or making available online); and
- Adapt the work (including to translate a poem from one language to another or converting a novel into a film script) and do any of the above activities in relation to an adaptation.
The meaning and scope of the exclusive rights are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this knowledge base.
Need for permission
From a content user’s point of view, the exclusive copyright rights in relation to a work are often referred to as “restricted acts”. Anyone who wants to copy or do any of the restricted acts in relation to someone else’s copyright material generally needs to ask for permission, unless a copyright exception applies.
The Copyright Act recognises moral rights owed to authors. Certain authors (and film directors) have a moral right to be identified as such, to object to derogatory treatment of their work (such as modification of their work) and to object to other works being falsely attributed to them.
Performers have some limited protections under the Copyright Act, to control the recording of their live performances and live transmission to the public, without consent.