6 Understanding Copyright

Before you begin writing make sure you have a firm grasp of copyright. You should understand how a Creative Commons licence will affect your open educational resource (OER). In Australia, copyright law is set out in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). This is federal legislation and applies throughout Australia.

You are probably familiar with the ‘Ten Per Cent Rule’ or Statutory Education licence (Section 113P of the Australian Copyright Act), which allows you to copy an insubstantial amount of literary or other work for educational purposes.

While you can use this Statutory Education licence when creating course guides and reading lists shared with enrolled students behind an institutional login, it does not apply to published works like open texts.

Most publishers require you to seek permission before reproducing third-party content like images, figures or substantial quotes in works that are publicly available. As such, when creating an OER you can only rely on content with a Creative Commons licence, or content in which you’ve received written permission from the copyright owner to use.


Seeking Permission

You will need to seek permission from the copyright holder to use copyright material in your OER. You will also need permission to use openly licensed materials if they have incompatible licences, (for example, combining CC BY-SA and CC BY-NC materials), or if your use falls outside the licence scope, for example adapting CC BY-ND material.

Firstly, check the copyright status and terms and conditions of the material. Many people and companies set out the terms relating to permission to use their copyrighted material on the site itself. This usually happens in one of three ways:

  1. The material itself may contain information on its permitted uses (there may be an indication near where the content is posted).
  2. The website may have a section entitled ‘Copyright’, ‘permissions’ or similar and will contain copyright and permissions information for material on the site.
  3. The site’s terms and conditions will specify how the material is used.

Many publishers request you seek permission via online forms. Alternatively, send an email to the copyright owner, outlining how you wish to use the content. Please use and adapt the permission template below.

Resource – Permission Templates

Permission templates for the use of third-party content

Use and adapt this JCU JCU copyright permission template [Word] when seeking permission for third-party content.

Talent release form

Use and adapt this JCU talent release form template [PDF] when including photography or videography of others.

Remember to record all materials you intend to use and any permissions you may have obtained.

Resource – Copyright Tracker Template

Please use the Content Copyright Tracker [Excel] to keep track of the content you are using in your open text and any permissions you may have sought.

How to use this tracker

The content in your open educational resource must be copyright compliant. This tracker will help you check that all the content in your open resource is safe to use and is compatible with the Creative Commons licence you have chosen for your work.

Where required, the Open Education team will seek permission from the copyright owner to use their resources or source open alternatives. As an author, please complete the tracker as you write your manuscript.

Understanding JCU’s Intellectual Property Policy

If you plan to use intellectual property (IP) that results from your work at JCU you need to be aware of the University’s position on IP ownership. You may not have the right to include such material in an openly published text without permission, even if you developed the work yourself.

You also need to be mindful of who owns the copyright for work you have done yourself.

Refer to the JCU Intellectual Property Policy for further clarification on ownership of IP and copyright for teaching materials by JCU staff and students.

Using Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property

Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) refers to the right of Indigenous Australians to protect their cultural heritage, including all aspects of art, knowledge systems, and culture (Arts Law Centre of Australia, 2023). When planning to include Indigenous content in OER, it is vital to be cognisant of ICIP and to respect the rights of Indigenous individuals and communities to be consulted and provide consent.

It is crucial to seek appropriate Indigenous permissions to use or disseminate Indigenous knowledge. The Australia Council for the Arts’ has created protocols for using First Nations cultural and intellectual property in the arts, which provides guidance and information about Indigenous protocols.

Be aware that Indigenous cultural IP may not fit into traditional areas of copyright and reuse. It’s best to seek out help from those who have expertise in this area.


Australian Copyright Council. (2019). An introduction to copyright in Australia. https://www.copyright.org.au/ACC_Prod/ACC/Information_Sheets/An_Introduction_to_Copyright_in_Australia.aspx?WebsiteKey=8a471e74-3f78-4994-9023-316f0ecef4ef

Australian Copyright Council. (2020). Quotes and extracts. https://www.copyright.org.au/ACC_Prod/ACC/Information_Sheets/Quotes___Extracts.aspx?WebsiteKey=8a471e74-3f78-4994-9023-316f0ecef4ef

Arts Law Centre of Australia. (2023). Indigenous cultural and intellectual property (ICIP). Australian Government. https://www.artslaw.com.au/information-sheet/indigenous-cultural-intellectual-property-icip-aitb/

Chapter Attribution

This chapter has been adapted in parts from:

Open Publishing Guide for Authors by University of Southern Queensland. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


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JCU OER Author Guide Copyright © 2023 by James Cook University Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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