'Intellectual property' is a broad term that describes the laws which protect products of people’s imagination and creativity.

The main forms of intellectual property include:

  • copyright
  • patents
  • designs
  • trademarks
  • circuit layouts
  • new plant varieties
  • confidential information.

The Intellectual Property Regulations provides the framework for management of intellectual property at Victoria University.

Laws & policies

Under the Australian Copyright Act 1968, the owner of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films and broadcasts have exclusive rights which allow them to:

  • reproduce/copy a work
  • publish
  • perform in public
  • communicate the work to the public via electronic means – including making it available online or sending via email.

Victoria University’s (VU) Copyright Policy provides a framework for university staff and students for using third party copyright material for educational and research purposes.

The Library offers access to guides and information about referencing and the use of copyright materials, as well as references tools and programs.

More information about aspects of copyright is available at the Australian Copyright Council’s website. They have Information Sheets available on a range of copyright related topics including using the internet, maps and charts, moral rights, research or study and YouTube. Information can be found by searching a particular category, or by fact sheets or books.

Copying for research & study

You can use copyright material for research or study provided the use is “fair” and "reasonable". The Australian Copyright Act sets out two situations which can be considered fair and also gives some guidelines for this purpose.

What is fair?

It is “fair” to copy a reasonable portion of text or notated music.

For print or hard copy editions of 10 or more pages you can copy 10% of the number of pages, or one chapter.

For text in electronic form you can copy 10% of the number of words, or one chapter.

The Act also provides some important guidelines for you to work out if your use is “fair”. Check the following points:

  1. The purpose and character of the use; for example, is it for a set course of study?
  2. The nature of the work; is the work of high skill or mundane work?
  3. Can the work be purchased within a reasonable time at an ordinary price; it is probably unfair to photocopy a large portion of a work if it can be purchased.
  4. The effect of the use on the potential market for, or value of the work; making a copy would be unfair if the publisher sells or licenses copies.
  5. If only part of the work is used, is the amount a ‘substantial portion’? For example, you may want to copy a few lines of a short poem.

You can:

  • copy a whole article from a newspaper or magazine
  • copy a photograph from a newspaper or magazine as long as it is not separately available
  • copy from the Internet for research (unless there are restricting terms and conditions) and save the material to disk or print.

You cannot:

  • email copies of anything you have downloaded from the Internet to share with others but you can link to the site in an email.

Fair dealing

There are ‘fair dealing’ exceptions for copyright if you are using the work for study and research or criticism and parody but the use must be “fair”. For more information about use of works under ‘fair dealing’ an Information Sheet is available from the Australian Copyright Council's website.

In the United States there is an exception called ‘fair use’ but this is not available in Australia although it is under consideration by the Australian government.

Copyright for researchers

The Library Guide Copyright for Researchers will provide some basic copyright information for students preparing a thesis or writing an article for publication, and guidelines on using indigenous resources and knowledge and social media material. The Library Guide can also provide publishing information for staff who may wish to know more about dealing with ownership, publisher licences and data management.

For information about music and copyright go to the Apra/Amcos webpage.

For information about VU’s Music Licence agreement see the university music agreement fact sheet 2020.

Generally copyright in a work lasts for the life of the author and 70 years but certain works will have different periods of duration. An information sheet is available from the Australian Copyright Council's website.

You may freely use material which is no longer in copyright or you may seek to use material which is under a Creative Commons licence (or any other open licence) available for use under simple terms with acknowledgement.

Using the Internet

Material accessed online via YouTube or other social media is also governed by copyright laws similar to anything you may use in hard copy.

When using text, images or audio visual material from media such as YouTube always check the terms and conditions of use before downloading or sharing.

YouTube provides guidelines for users and you can also check the Australian Copyright Council website for their fact sheet on YouTube and Internet use.

Students with a print disability

If you have a disability, Accessibility Services can provide you with  a range of support measures and technical resources provided by the Library and other areas of VU.

Definition of ‘person with a disability’

The Act's definition of ‘person with a disability’ includes persons  with a disability that causes difficulty reading, viewing, hearing or comprehending copyright material. Disability has the same definition as in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Fair dealing exception

The Act' fair dealing exception for access to copyright material by persons with a disability is listed in section 113E. The exception permits, for instance, enlarging text and graphics, and making changes to the format.

In addition to being for access by persons with a disability, the following fairness factors must be met:

  • Purpose and character of the dealing (for example, is it to assist access to and enjoyment of copyright material?)
  • Nature of the copyright material (for example, is it available in print? Is it published or unpublished?)
  • Effect on potential market or value of the material (for example, is the use likely to cause market harm to the copyright owner?)
  • Amount and substantiality of the dealing (for example, how much of the work will be used? How many copies will be made?).

For more information, the Australian Copyright Council has a fact sheet “Disabilities: Copyright Provisions” which stresses that the Copyright Act allows “organisations assisting people with a print disability or an intellectual disability” to use copyright material without permission in some circumstances.

Information about the use of copyright material by staff for certain educational purposes is available in the Copyright for Teaching at VU guide.

Copyright training for teaching staff and learning designers is available via VU Develop. The module Copyright for Teaching focuses on copyright compliance as per VU’s Copyright Policy and Procedure.

Copying for commercial use

"Commercial Use" can be any activity that is:

  • conducted externally of the VU premises or network, or
  • not part of a Victoria University higher education or TAFE course, or
  • not part of a Victoria University student/staff research or study, or
  • conducted for a profit.

The following are examples of "commercial" activities:

  • University promotion and marketing (for example print, radio or TV Media)
  • University administration (for example internal newsletters)
  • any activity that makes a profit (for example publishing a book or a profit making event).

Teaching, research and study are examples of "non commercial" activities.

What can I copy?

If your activity is commercial, you cannot rely on VU's Educational or Statutory Licences or the Copyright Act's Fair Dealing exceptions.

If your commercial material contains third party material, you'll need to get the permission from the copyright owner.

For example, if your VU marketing poster contains a photograph you downloaded from the internet, then you'll need to gain permission from the copyright owner of that photograph unless it is out of copyright or in the public domain.

What can I copy without permission?

There are several options available that don't require the copyright holder's permission:

  • you can copy an insubstantial portion
  • you can use material protected by a suitable Creative Commons licence
  • you can use material that is owned by VU
  • you can use material that is no longer protected by copyright.


If the third party material is protected by copyright, and you need to use it as part of your commercial activity (as defined above), then you may seek copyright permission from the copyright holder.

For assistance with permission requests contact VU’s Copyright Officer on [email protected] or by phone on +61 3 9919 5958.

Contact us

The VU Copyright Officer is available from Monday to Wednesday and can be contacted by email ([email protected]) or phone +61 3 9919 5958.