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What material does copyright cover?

Copyright protects:

  • textual material (“literary works”) such as journal articles, novels, screenplays, poems, song lyrics and reports;
  • computer programs (a sub-category of “literary works”);
  • compilations (another sub-category of “literary works”) such as anthologies – the selection and arrangement of material may be protected separately from the individual items contained in the compilation;
  • artistic works such as paintings, drawings, cartoons, sculpture, craft work, architectural plans, buildings, photographs, maps and plans;
  • dramatic works such as choreography, screenplays, plays and mime pieces;
  • musical works: that is, the music itself, separately from any lyrics or recording;
  • cinematograph films: the visual images and sounds in a film, video or DVD are protected separately from any copyright in works recorded on the film or video, such as scripts and music;
  • sound recordings: the particular recording itself is protected by copyright, in addition to, for example, the music or story that is recorded;
  • broadcasts: TV and radio broadcasters have a copyright in their broadcasts, which is separate from the copyright in the films, music and other material which they broadcast; and
  • published editions: publishers have copyright in their typographical arrangements, which is separate from the copyright in works reproduced in the edition (such as poems or illustrations or music).


Reference: Australian Copyright Council. Information Sheet G010v18: An Introduction to Copyright in Australia. Retrieved from

What is a ‘reasonable portion’ that I can copy?

A reasonable portion is:

  • 10% of the pages or 1 chapter of a book
  • 1 article from any one issue of a journal or newspaper;
  • 2 or more articles from the one issue if they’re all for the same research or course of study.
  • a work of fewer than 15 pages from an anthology

eBooks: you should be able to copy at least a reasonable portion of an ebook; their terms of use may allow more, so check each one for the specific amount permitted.

Are there any exceptions to the ‘reasonable portion’ limits?

Yes - under the following circumstances:

  • If copyright has expired in the book you can copy as much as you like. See: Duration of Copyright
  • If the book is out of print – please contact the Library if you think this may be the case. See: Copying Out of Print Material