Copyright & Intellectual Property 101

RDI Network
October 2021
4 min read

An understanding of copyright is essential for development practitioners, both in order to understand the potential of output and to respect the prior work of others. The following sources outline the key principles of Australia’s intellectual property law.

  • Intellectual property is the protection of ideas. In all its forms, intellectual property seeks to ensure the protection of intangible objects, whether they be inventions, artworks, research outputs or 
  • You might not be the owner of your work. Creations made in employment are often the property of the employer. Clarification with employers should be reached early in order to ensure understanding.
  • You do not have to register for copyright. Copyright protections apply, free of charge to any created piece of original thought, published or unpublished. Beware of any sites that offer to register copyrights, as they are scams.
  • Patents and copyrights are not the same. Copyright relates to and protects the expression of an idea, for example, a photograph or written text. To protect an idea itself from being stolen, patents are necessary. Patent protections seek to protect original ideas and inventions, and require a significant, sometimes costly application process to receive legal protection.
  • Trademarks and copyrights are not the same.  Trademarks differentiate themselves from copyright, in that trademarks are words and images that distinguish businesses from one another ( such as colours or short, quippy words and/or phrases). An example may be the specific purple colour that Australian chocolate brand, Cadbury, uses in their product design. If another chocolate manufacturer were to use the identical colour in their designs, Cadbury could claim trademark infringement. 
  • You need permission to use copyrighted works. Similarly, you must grant permission in order for works utilising your copyright to be made. Records should be kept of all permissions.