Guide to Copyright




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If I change a work can I avoid infringing copyright?


Changing a work does not necessarily avoid an infringement claim. If the resulting work includes a substantial part of the original work (which may be a small but important part) permission will be required from the copyright owner of the original work.

Importation and commercial dealings


The Copyright Act also makes certain other acts an indirect infringement of copyright. It is an infringement of copyright to import copyright infringing articles (ie pirate goods) into Australia for trade purposes. Commercial dealings with infringing or pirate articles also constitute an infringement of copyright. Infringing or pirate articles are items such as copies of DVDs and computer games that are made without legal authority or consent from the owner of the copyright material in them. There are also restrictions on importation of certain legitimate copyright goods into Australia without the permission of the copyright owner (‘parallel importation’).

Importation of books


The commercial importation of legitimate copies of books is permitted in certain circumstances. For example, books which are not published in Australia within 30 days of their first publication overseas can be imported without the permission of the copyright owner in the literary work or published edition. A person wishing to import books commercially without the permission of the copyright owner should seek legal advice before doing so.

Importation of sound recordings


The commercial importation of legitimate copies of sound recordings (including CDs and records) is generally not an infringement of copyright. However, if the copies were made without the consent of the copyright owner (ie they are pirate copies), the importation of those copies will infringe copyright. A person wishing to import CDs or records commercially without the permission of the copyright owner should first seek legal advice.

Sound recordings commonly record musical works which themselves have a copyright separate to the copyright in the recording. If the copyright in a musical work is infringed by the making of a copy, the importation will also infringe copyright in the musical work.


Importation of Computer Programs and e-Books and e-Journals


The commercial importation of legitimate copies of computer software or electronic books (including collections of works), electronic journals and electronic sheet music into Australia without the permission of the Australian copyright owner is generally not an infringement of copyright. The imported copy must have been made with the permission of the copyright owner in the country of manufacture. If the physical item or medium embodying the works in electronic form, (eg a CD-ROM or DVD) includes a film or television program of more than 20 minutes duration, it cannot be parallel imported. Note that downloading of copyright materials by computer from an overseas Internet site, which does not involve bringing of a physical item or medium into Australia, is not parallel importation. Downloading is an exercise of the reproduction or copying right of the owner of copyright in the materials concerned.

Is permission required to play music in public?


One of the exclusive rights of the owner of copyright in a musical work is to perform that work in public, and in the case of sound recordings to cause the recordings to be heard in public. The playing of music from a radio or television broadcast in the workplace would generally be regarded as a public performance of the work. A licence from the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA www.apra.com.au), which is a copyright collecting society representing music copyright owners, should be obtained by the employer or business for this purpose. Where CDs are played in public, a licence from both APRA and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA www.ppca.com.au) may be required.

Place of public entertainment


It is an infringement of copyright to permit a place of public entertainment to be used for an infringing public performance of a literary, dramatic or musical work.

Circumvention devices and services


The Copyright Act provides civil remedies and criminal sanctions against the manufacture, importation and dealings in devices and services designed to circumvent any technological protection measure (TPM).

The Copyright Act also provides civil remedies and criminal sanctions against the circumvention of access control TPMs. These are TPMs that control access to the copyrighted work (eg by requiring the application of information or a process before access is granted). Examples include items such as a software lock or password protection measure. TPMs which prevent copying but do not control access to the work do not come within this definition, eg copy protection on a PDF file. There is no liability for the circumvention of TPMs which do not come within the definition of an access control TPM.

Devices which control geographic market segmentation are not TPMs. This means that consumers can circumvent the region coding devices on legitimate DVDs purchased overseas. It also allows for the continued availability of region free DVD players. There are exceptions to TPM liability in the Copyright Act 1968 and Copyright Regulations 1969. There is also a mechanism under the Copyright Regulations 1969 for the Attorney-General to create exceptions to TPM liability.

Unauthorised access to encoded broadcasts


There are two types of encoded broadcasts, subscription broadcasts (eg pay-TV) and encoded free-to-air broadcasts. There are remedies and sanctions against the manufacture, dealing in and use of broadcast decoding devices (a device which permits unauthorised access to an encoded broadcast). It is also an offence to access a subscription broadcast without authorisation, or distribute it without authorisation. The offence covers unauthorised access regardless of context and includes unauthorised access in a private home.

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