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Copyright Law Changes

Over the last three months there have been a couple of significant changes to copyright law in Australia, providing some clarification of the rights of Australian copyright holders.

Standardising the duration of copyright protection

  • Australia is one of few countries where registration of copyright is not available for any purpose.
  • As a result, it is important that the duration of copyright available in Australia is standardised and recent changes to the Copyright Act 1968 have achieved that.
  • The most important change is to the period of protection for copyright in unpublished materials.
  • From 1 January 2019, all works of a literary, dramatic, musical and artistic nature will have protection for a standard period of time – the life of the author plus 70 years.
  • This protection is not dependent on whether the material has been made public.
  • Where an author is unknown and for sound and film recordings, copyright protection lasts for 70 years after the work was created.
  • However if that copyright material is made public within 50 years of creation, copyright will apply for 70 years after the date of being made public.

One final point – copyright protection is not as simple in many overseas jurisdictions and advice should be sought on the need for copyright registration to protect the interests of the copyright holder.

Blocking offshore piracy websites

In a move which some consumer groups and advocates have strongly criticised, the Australian Government has passed legislation to block offshore piracy websites (such as The Pirate Bay). The main issues are:

  • Under the previous law, it was possible but difficult for Court injunctions to be obtained by a copyright owner to require a provider of internet services to take reasonable steps to block access to overseas pirate websites.
  • This has now become easier. Now, it won’t be necessary to prove that the website had the primary purpose of infringing or assisting to infringe copyright.
  • The Court can now simply look at evidence of the effect of the site as to copyright breaches.
  • It is also possible to seek an injunction against a search engine provider such as Google to take reasonable steps not to provide search results referring to blocked sites in Australia.
  • To cover new “pop up” sites, there can be an agreement between the copyright owner and the provider to extend the injunction to cover domain names, URLs and IP addresses which subsequently start to provide access to the original pirate site.


If we can provide you with more information, please contact Rob Ffrench at Bell Legal Group by phone on (07) 5597 3366, or via email at rffrench@belllegal.com.au.


This article is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this article as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this article, please let us know.