Copyright for Researchers: Creating your own work

Copyright for VU researchers

Using Indigenous Resources and Knowledge

AIATSIS have developed Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (2012) .  The guidelines aim to support people to think and act ethically in Indigenous Australian research contexts.  The guidelines include principles around:

  • Rights, respect and recognition
  • Negotiation, consultation, agreement and mutual understanding
  • Participation, collaboration and partnership
  • Benefits, outcomes and giving back
  • Managing research: use, storage and access
  • Reporting and compliance

In 2018, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released the updated Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities: Guidelines for researchers and stakeholders.  They list 6 core values:

  • spirit and integrity
  • cultural continuity
  • reciprocity
  • respect
  • responsibility

Useful links

Top Tips for using third party material

If you are using material created by someone else or a third party:

1. Look for freely available material such as Creative Commons licensed works or material published under Open Access

2. Always check terms and conditions when using material from the internet or websites

3. Always acknowledge the author and source of any work used

4. If works are not freely available explore the possibility of seeking permission from the owner

5. If using third party material make sure you have permission before your work is loaded into VU's Research Repository

Finding freely available items

There are sites that provide freely available material for your use but not everything you need will be available via these sites.  Use these locations to help you find easy to use material or to locate publishers that support Open Access materials.

Also check the VU Open Access website for guidance.

What you can use under the Copyright Act

The fair dealing exceptions apply to the following purposes:

  1. research and study
  2. criticism and review
  3. reporting the news
  4. the giving of professional advice by a lawyer 

The first two acts in the above list are relevant to students and there are a range of factors to consider when depending on them.

1. The Copyright Act contains a list of factors that are relevant for determining whether making a copy for the purpose of research or study is fair. These factors are

  • the purpose and character of the copying, for example, whether non commercial use.
  • the nature of the work or audio-visual item
  • the possibility of obtaining the work (or AV item) within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price
  • the effect of making the copy upon the potential market for, or value of, the work or AV item
  • where only part of the work or AV item is reproduced, whether it is 'insubstantial' or not.

2. Criticism and review are intended to be used according to their dictionary definitions but can sometimes be difficult in that a certain use is not covered by the definitions so it is advisable to be wary when depending on this exception.  This use will only constitute a fair dealing where a 'sufficient acknowledgement' is made.  It is probably best to seek advice before using this exception.

The fair dealing exception refers to the use of a 'reasonable portion' which is an article in a periodical publication where only one article can be used at any time.  For whole books you may copy one chapter or 10% of the total number of pages whichever is greater.  


Tricky areas

An 'insubstantial portion' of a work can be

  • a few lines or sentences from another source, such as a book or a journal, which is acknowledged
  • a short film clip or a snippet from a sound recording
  • a quote from another source

Whether something is 'insubstantial' depends on the quality rather than quantity and the Copyright Act does not define exactly what qualifies as an 'insubstantial' portion.  Sometimes even a short film clip, if it gives away the plot, will be considered 'substantial' and will require permission.

Adaptations, collages and mash-ups

If you wish to adapt a third party work you may require permission.  The right to adapt a work is an exclusive right held by the copyright owner of a work. Adaptation is a complex area in copyright. It could be viewed as any action which changes a work or the purpose of that work, no matter how small that change might be.

Orphan works

In some instances it may be impossible to locate the owner of a copyright in a work. There may be no date for the creation of the work; no creator's name and despite attempts made to locate the owner it may not be possible to attribute the work and get permission.  In these cases it is probably best to seek an alternative work.