- Copyright protects the use and distribution of works found to be property founded on a person’s creative skill and labour.
- Using someone else’s content without permission or an appropriate licence can be an infringement of their copyright.
- Olivia Rodrigo has reportedly had to relinquish millions in royalties to Paramore amid a ‘copying’ scandal.
Copyright is a type of property that is founded on a person’s creative skill and labour. Therefore, copyright protects the way the ‘works’ are used and distributed. The copyright owner is the creator of the works, including literary works, paintings, plans, and music. This is governed by the Copyright Act 1968.
There is no requirement for works where copyright subsists to be registered under Australian copyright law. If the work or other subject matter falls within one of the categories of protected material and the circumstances of creation satisfy the requirements, copyright exists in the work.
Protected materials include:
- Literary works;
- Artistic works;
- Dramatic and musical works; and
- Subject matter other than works, including films, broadcasts, and sound recordings.
The duration of copyright protection for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works is generally the creator’s life, plus 70 years.
Breach of Copyright
Using someone else’s content without permission, or an appropriate licence can be an infringement of their copyright. By using even part of someone’s work, copyright could be infringed if the part is an essential or essential element of the work. To establish a breach of copyright by an alleged infringer, you must prove that:
- The precise property in respect of your right is still in force.
- You own the rights or are entitled to act on behalf of the owner (e.g. an exclusive licensee).
- The infringer’s product is a copy of the whole or a substantial part of your product.
- The infringer made their product without a licence or your authority.
Copyright Breaches are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society, especially within the music industry.
Earlier this year, Olivia Rodrigo had to retrospectively add Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Josh Farro as writers on her new hit ‘Good 4 U’. This comes after criticism that Olivia’s song is very similar to Paramore’s 2007 single ‘Misery Business’. This has reportedly already cost Olivia $1.2 million in royalties, which is suspected to rise to around $2 million.
This is not the first time Olivia has had to add writers retrospectively to her music. Last month she added Taylor Swift and her producer and co-writer to the credits of her new song ‘Déjà Vu, which has been raised as being similar to Taylor’s song ‘Cruel Summer’.
However, with many new artists drawing on those that had inspired them, is this inevitable?
Defences to Copyright
Under the Copyright Act, defences known as “fair dealings” are acknowledged. This identifies that certain types of copyright used may be fair dealings if they are for:
- Research or study (s 40(1)).
- Criticism or review (s 41).
- Parody or satire (s 41A).
- Reporting the news (s 42).
- Provisional advice and judicial proceedings (s 43).
- Access by persons with a disability (s 113E).
The Copyright Act also makes a provision for a limited defence of innocent infringement. This occurs when the alleged ‘copycat’ was not aware and had no reasonable grounds for suspecting that the act constituting the infringement was an infringement of copyright.
If you believe that your copyright rights are being infringed, seek legal advice to determine which remedies are available to you. An infringement of your intellectual property is an issue that should not be overlooked.
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This blog is merely general and non-specific information on the subject matter and is not and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice. Coutts is not responsible for any cost, expense, loss or liability whatsoever to this blog, including all or any reliance on this blog or use or application of this blog by you.