Research & Referencing

A guide for students and staff on referencing, copyright, creative commons and more



This page will give information about copyright, what you are allowed to do and how, and what you need to be careful of.


Australian Copyright Council

What is the public domain?


Once the period of copyright protection expires, the work is in the ‘public domain’. This means that anyone can copy the work without having first to obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Some people mistakenly believe that once a work is published or available for free from the Internet, it is in the ‘public domain’. This is not true. Publicly available Internet material, such as an online newspaper articles or images on Google or Flickr, are all protected by copyright.

Public domain works are works where the period of copyright protection has expired




Students can copy and communicate limited amounts of works under “fair dealing” without seeking the permission of the copyright owner. To rely on fair dealing, the use of the material must be fair and for the purpose of:

  • research or study

  • criticism or review

  • parody or satire

  • reporting the news

Most of the copying students will do will fall under fair dealing for research and study. In some cases, a student will be copying material under both fair dealing for research and study and another fair dealing purpose such parody and satire or criticism and review.

Overall, deciding whether a student’s use is ‘fair’ will be determined largely by how much of the work has been copied. This can be tricky as the Copyright Act provides little guidance on what constitutes a ‘fair’ amount.

How much is ‘fair’?

The Copyright Act states that students are permitted to copy a reasonable portion of a literary, dramatic or musical work in both print and electronic form for the purpose of research or study. Reasonable portion is defined to be 10% of the number of pages or one chapter if the work divided into chapters.

In all other cases, the Copyright Act is silent on how much a student can copy for their use to be ‘fair’.  This means that no guidance is provided on how much of:

A sound recording, film/moving image or broadcast can be used by a student under fair dealing for the purpose of research or study.

Any work can be copied under fair dealing for criticism or review, parody or satire or reporting of the news.

As a general rule, students should only copy what is necessary for the fair dealing purpose to ensure that their use is ‘fair’. In most cases, this will only be an extract of the work and not the whole work. For example, in preparing an essay, a student is likely to copy several pages from a book or an article from a journal. This is permitted provided the extracts copied are necessary for the student’s research or study. Further, if the student is making a parody of a song or film, it is unlikely that the student will need to copy the whole work for the fair dealing purpose. In such a case, copying an extract of the song or film as necessary will be ‘fair’.

In limited circumstances, a student may be permitted to copy a whole work provided the whole work is necessary for the fair dealing purpose. For example, a student may need to copy an entire short poem when preparing a critique on the poem.

Overall, when relying on fair dealing, students must:

Use extracts and not whole works. In rare cases, a whole work can be copied provided it is necessary for the fair dealing purpose.
Always attribute the author and publisher where the source is known. See Attribution below.

TIP: Where possible, students should link to material and use Creative Commons licensed material. 




What is copyright?

A simple definition of copyright is that it is a bunch of rights in certain creative works (literary works, artistic works, musical works, computer programs, sound recordings, films and broadcasts) which can be used to stop others from copying the creative works without permission.

At its most basic, copyright is simply the exclusive right to copy.

The rights are granted exclusively to the copyright owner to reproduce (copy, scan, print) and communicate (email, put on Internet) the material, and for some material, the right to perform or show the work to the public. Copyright owners can prevent others from reproducing or communicating their work without their permission. Only the copyright owner can licence or sell these rights to someone else.

smartcopy. (n.d.) What is copyright? Retrieved from http://www.smartcopying.edu.au/copyright-guidelines/copyright---a-general-overview/1-1-what-is-copyright-

Why is copyright important?

Copyright is important because it gives creators control over their creative works. This means they can decide who uses their work, how it can be used and if they will charge a fee to other people who want to use it. This gives creators the ability to earn a living from their works and/or to control how their works are used or disseminated.

smartcopy. (n.d.) Why is copyright important? Retrieved fromhttp://www.smartcopying.edu.au/copyright-guidelines/copyright---a-general-overview/1-1-what-is-copyright-

When does copyright apply?

In Australia, copyright protection is automatic. This means that a work does not need to be registered or have a copyright notice on it to be protected by copyright. A work will be protected as soon as it is put into material form, such as being written down or recorded in some way (filmed or recorded on an audio tape).

smartcopy. (n.d.) When does copyright apply? Retrieved fromhttp://www.smartcopying.edu.au/copyright-guidelines/copyright---a-general-overview/1-1-what-is-copyright-

What does copyright protect?

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, styles or techniques. For example, copyright will not protect an idea for a film or book, but it will protect a script for the film or even a storyboard for the film. Basically, copyright only protects creativity that is in a tangible medium.

The types of works copyright protects include:

Artistic Works - paintings, photographs, maps, graphics, cartoons, charts, diagrams and illustrations

Literary Works - novels, textbooks, poems, song lyrics, newspaper articles, computer software, computer games

Musical Works - melodies, song music, advertising jingles, film scores

Dramatic works - plays, screenplays and choreography

Films and Moving Images - Feature films, short films, documentaries, television programs, interactive games, television advertisements, music videos and vodcasts

Sound Recordings - MP3 files, CDs, DVDs, vinyl and tape recordings, podcasts.

Broadcasts - Pay and Free to air television and radio

It is important to note that online text, images, broadcasts, videos and music on websites, wikis, blogs and social networking sites are all protected by copyright. See Public Domain below.


When can you use other people's work?

If you want to use someone else’s work, you can generally only use it if:

Your use is permitted under an exception contained in the Australian Copyright Act (‘Copyright Act’). 

There are a list of exceptions called ‘fair dealing’ in the Copyright Act that allow students to copy and use other people’s works for the purpose of ‘research and study’, ‘criticism and review’, ‘satire and parody’ and ‘reporting the news’. See section on Fair Dealing below.

The copyright owner has said that it can be used for free or has licensed the material under a Creative Commons licence. See the section on Creative Commons.
You ask the copyright owner for permission and they give it. This is called permission or a licence. 



Copyright and Plagiarism

The relationship between copyright and plagiarism can be tricky to understand. Plagiarism is a type of misconduct that, in some cases, may also give rise to copyright infringement.

Plagiarism occurs where a student uses someone else’s ideas or words in their work and pretends they are their own. If the student has used a lot of someone else’s words without that person’s permission, copyright infringement may also occur.

smartcopy. (n.d.) Copyright and Plagiarism. Retrieved fromhttp://www.smartcopying.edu.au/copyright-guidelines/copyright---a-general-overview/1-1-what-is-copyright-


Creative Commons Australia

Creative Commons is a world wide non-profit organisation that provides copyright owners with free licences allowing them to share, reuse and remix their material, legally.

Creative Commons Search

Provides access to search services provided by other independent organisations to retrieve materials covered by a CC license.

(Donnelly, 2015)


Copyright Exceptions

1.13 Copyright exceptions

The Copyright Act provides a series of exceptions which allow schools and TAFE institutes to use copyright material without permission. These include:

  • Fair dealing and other statutory exceptions

  •  Flexible dealing l Educational exceptions

  •  Other exceptions

  •  Statutory Licence schemes

a. Fair Dealing

Teachers and students can copy and communicate limited amounts of works under “fair dealing”. No permission is required or payment made to the copyright owner if the use is fair and for the purpose of:

  •  research or study

  •  criticism or review

  •  reporting the news

  •  parody or satire

If a work is protected by a technological protection measure, you may not be able to use the fair dealing exceptions. See 1.15: Liability of Schools and Individuals for Copyright Infringement for information on offences relating to copyright protection technologies

i. Research or study

In general, students and teachers can rely on fair dealing when using extracts from copyright material as part of their own research or study for a class or particular course of instruction. The person undertaking the study and research (for example, the school student) must be the person doing the copying for it to be considered a “fair dealing”. A student/teacher may copy and communicate parts, and in some cases the whole, of a:

  •  literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work

  •  sound or television broadcast

  •  film, video /DVD

  •  sound recording

  •  multimedia product

  •  computer program

  •  database for free for the purposes of research or study.

Teachers/students are allowed to copy as a fair dealing for research or study:

  • a 'reasonable portion' of a published edition of a literary, dramatic or musical work.

  •  whole or part of an article in a periodical.

  •  more than one article in a periodical if you are copying it for different research or a different course of study.

The Official Guide to Copyright Issues for Australian Schools and TAFE course of study. Teachers/students may copy or communicate more than a reasonable portion of a literary, musical or dramatic work or more than one article for the same research if this is fair. You can decide if your copying or communication is fair by considering the following factors: ¡ the purpose and character of the dealing ¡ the nature of the work ¡ the possibility of obtaining the work within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price ¡ the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of the work ¡ in the case where only the part of the work is copied - the amount and substantiality of the part copied in relation to the whole work Teachers may not use fair dealing to make multiple copies of material for their students’ research or study. This is covered by the Statutory Licence schemes. External Students External students who are enrolled in an educational institution can rely on the defence of fair dealing for research or study, provided that the copying is related to an approved course of study or research.

ii. Criticism or review

A student/teacher may copy or communicate parts of a literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work for the purpose of criticism and review (eg where a student or teacher is reviewing a book, CD or film for a student newspaper, teacher’s journal or a website).

The source work, the copyright owner and the author (if different from the copyright owner) must be sufficiently acknowledged in the publication.

Sufficient acknowledgment must be made of the source material, the copyright owner, the author (if different) and the title of the work being copied (if different from the copyright owner).

The same exception applies for audio-visual material (sound recordings, films and broadcasts).

iii. Reporting the news

A student/teacher may copy or communicate parts of a literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work for the purpose of reporting news that appears in the print, radio or television media.

Sufficient acknowledgment must be made of the copyright owner and the author of the work.

The same exception applies for the use of audio-visual material (sound recordings, films and broadcasts) featured in the news. 


Internet and Websites

  1. Does browsing infringe copyright? No. Browsing does not infringe copyright.
  2. Can I copy and print images and text from a website to use in class? Yes.You can copy images and text within the copying limits of the Statutory Text and Artistic Licence. If you want to copy more material than is permitted under the Statutory Text and Artistic Licence, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner of the material. See How to Clear Rights for further information on obtaining permission from the copyright owner.
  3. Can I publish material from a textbook on our school or TAFE intranet? You can publish material within the copying limits of the Statutory Text and Artistic Licence, provided that the intranet is only available to students and teachers of the school. If you want to publish more material than is permitted under the Statutory Text and Artistic Licence, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner of the material. See How to Clear Rights for further information on obtaining permission from the copyright owner.
  4. If someone posts a work on a website, does this mean that they lose copyright in it? No, the copyright owner will not lose the copyright in the work.
  5. Does caching infringe copyright? Browser caching does not infringe copyright. In relation to content repositioning caching, as long as the school/TAFE has cleared the rights to copy and communicate the resources stored on the server, it will generally be permitted. Active caching will infringe copyright, if more than a reasonable portion is cached See 2.8: Internet and Websites (g) Other Relevant Issues for further information on caching and copyright.
  6. Can I download more than one article from a newspaper’s website for use in class? Yes.This is permitted under the Statutory Text and Artistic Licence provided that each article relates to the same subject matter (eg front page story and an editorial on the same issue). It is important to note the copying limits under the Statutory Text and Artistic Licence. If you want to download more articles than is permitted under the Statutory Text and Artistic Licence, you must obtain permission from the newspaper. See How to Clear Rights for further information on obtaining permission from the newspaper.
  7. Can I stream music live from a website in class at school? Yes.Schools and TAFE institutes can communicate music from a website in class. For further Yes, if the link includes a logo or graphic image from the linked website and bypasses its homepage. infromation on streaming music in class, see information sheet "Performance and Communication of Works and Audio Visual Material in Class - What am I allowed to do?".
  8. Do I need permission to place a hyperlink on our school website to another website? No, if the link is to the other website’s homepage. 


Using YouTube in the Classroom

Risk Management Tips for Teachers Using YouTube

  • Don't use content that is likely to be an infringing copy.

  • Only use YouTube videos for the purpose of teaching.  There should be no commercial benefit.

  • Only use what you need.

  • Check that you can't purchase or readily license the content that you need from another source.

  • Don't expose the content to further copying or communication, such as giving students access to an electronic file that they could copy


Performing a work or Audio-Visual item in class

When can I perform a work or audio-visual item in class?

Teachers and students can read or perform a literary, dramatic or musical work, or play sound recordings and films in class, where it is:

in the course of education and is not for profit; and
the people in the audience or class are giving or receiving instruction, or are directly connected with the place where instruction is given.

A class includes virtual classes and distance education students.

Note: this exception does not extend to playing films or sound recordings for non-teaching activities.  See below for further information.


Format Shifting

Are schools ever allowed to format shift?

Some limited format shifting is permitted under the new 'flexible dealings' exception (new section 200AB).

A school is allowed to format shift copyright material (eg, a video to DVD or music tape to CD) if:

1. The original copy of the material is lawful. This means that the school bought it, or it is a genuine  (non-pirate) copy of the material that was given to the school.

2. The copy is being made for the  purpose of educational instruction (eg, a teacher needs to use the material in class or students need it to do homework).

3. It is not possible to buy the material in the new format within a reasonable time. 

4. You do not use the format shifted copy in a way that would unreasonably prejudice the copyright owner (such as putting it on the Internet or giving students access to an electronic file that they could copy). 

5. You do not remove or disable an access control TPM to make the format shifted copy.