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Assignment and library skills

Copyright rules and plagiarism

Copyright is one of the legal rights designed to protect the works of authors or creators from unauthorised copying and transmission. Copyright protects a work as soon as it is put in material form, such as writing it down or recording in some way (film, sculpture, etc). However it is recommended that you attach a copyright notice so that the owner can be clearly identifed.

Copyright automatically protects the original expression of ideas, not the ideas, concepts, styles or techniques themselves. For example, copyright will not protect an idea for a film or book, but it will protect a script for the film or even a storyboard for the film.

Under copyright law, the copyright owner has a number of exclusive rights including the right to publish her/his work, control copying, prepare derivative works and publicly perform her/his work as well as the right to make the material available online.

  • Copyright is really a set of rights – copyright owners have economic and moral rights as well as legal rights.
  • Copyright law aims to protect the creative work of the copyright owner from unauthorised use by others.
  • Copyright law also tries to balance this right with the general public's right to access information.

Most expressions of creative intellectual endeavour are automatically protected by copyright. The copyright symbol is not required, but is often used to help remind people that the work is protected. For example, © Elton John 2003.

Copyright protects a variety of material, including:

  • Literary works - texts, reports, journal articles, compilations, software, maps, song lyrics
  • Dramatic works - dance, plays, choreography
  • Artistic works - paintings, drawings, photos, logos, plans, models, buildings
  • Musical works - concerts, operas, etc
  • Films - moving images, sounds in films, television programs and commercials
  • Sound recordings - sounds recorded on tape/CD etc
  • Broadcasts - television and radio programs
  • Computer programs - these are regarded as "literary works"
  • Compilations - anthologies, directories, databases. These are regarded as "literary works."

For further information refer to the Australia Copyright Council’s fact sheet “An introduction to copyright in Australia” in the Resources section at the bottom of this page or the Smartcopying website.

Copyright length

The period of protection is different for different types of material.

General rule - Copyright lasts for the life of the author/creator, plus 70 years after their death

For further information refer to the Australia Copyright Council’s fact sheet “Duration of copyright” or 1.7 How long does it last? from the Smartcopying website. (Links in Resources section at the bottom of this page)

Copying for research or study purposes is permitted, and is known as "fair dealing". This allows a person to copy limited portions of a copyright protected work for purposes of research or study.

Under the "fair dealing" provision, it is considered fair to copy:

  • one chapter of a book, or up to 10% of the number of pages
  • one chapter or 10% of the number of words for text material in electronic form
  • one article from an issue of a journal, newspaper or magazine - or more than one article if each article relates to the same subject matter
  • a 'fair' amount of other works such as audio visual materials for study purposes

For further information refer to the Australia Copyright Council’s fact sheets "Fair Dealing: What Can I Use Without Permission" and "Research or Study" in the Resources section.

It is important to be aware that most material on the internet (such as text, images, photographs, software, animations, video footage, music and email) is protected by copyright in the same way as material in other forms. This means that you should not assume that you can print and/or download all material or sites you can access. Even emails and attachments may be protected.

Tips to remember:

  • You need to read terms and conditions or copyright statements on website - this may state what material you are permitted or not permitted to use. If these state copying is not allowed this overrides the 10% rule and makes it necessary for you to seek permission for use from copyright owner.
  • However, if no statements are visible, there are probably implied permissions (licences) for individuals in accordance with the "fair dealing" considerations for research and study purposes.

For example, if the site includes pdf files, print or email icons, you could assume that you have the copyright owner's authorisation to print and/or download material.

  • Be aware that some material on the internet is there without the copyright owner's authorisation. You may need to check whether the material has been made available on the internet with the copyright owner's authorisation.
  • Some material made freely available on the Internet is distributed by Creative Commons (an alternative licensing system so that authors, musicians and other creators can grant rights to the public to use their work without payment but still retain control over their copyright material).

For further information refer to the Australia Copyright Council’s fact sheets "Internet - Copying and Downloading” in the Resources section.

When do you need to obtain permission from the owner of copyrighted material?

  • When you use something protected by copyright.
  • When the material you wish to use is outside of the "fair dealing" (you use a substantial amount) provisions for research and study purposes.
  • When there is a statement on a website that states you are not permitted to use the material.
  • When you are unsure or concerned that you may infringe copyright - especially in relation to internet and multimedia products such as logos, graphics, music and motion pictures.

How do you get copyright permission?

  • You need to get permission from the owner of the material, preferably in writing.
  • For published material you should first contact the publisher, who may be able to give you permission or provide you with information on who to contact.
  • For internet material, start by contacting the webmaster or sending an email to the general email address on the website.

Warning: Copyright infringement occurs wherever any substantial amount of copyright protected work is used without permission, even if the source is acknowledged.

For further information refer to the Australia Copyright Council’s fact sheets "Permission: Do I Need it?" and "Permissions: How to Get It" in the Resources section.

This video shows where you can seek assignment help rather than plagiarising. 


What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using or copying someone else's work or ideas and including them in your own writing without using referencing to acknowledge them as the creator. It is considered a form of theft, and it breaks the academic student misconduct rules you must follow as a TAFE student. There are serious penalties for plagiarising. 


The following are considered acts of plagiarism, whether you meant to or not:

  • directly copying another person's work, in whatever format it is including information from the internet, without using quotation marks or acknowledging the creator
  • paraphrasing and summarising another person's quotations or ideas without acknowledging them 
  • using the work of other students (with or without their permission), whether they are from or outside TAFE QLD, and claiming it as your own work
  • working with another person on one assignment that is meant to be an individual attempt/not group work
  • using content found or paid for from a study help website like Course Hero e.g. answers or an assignment provided by another person
  • using graphs, statistics or images without acknowledging the source

Tips to remember to avoid plagiarising:

  • Acknowledge all the sources of information used in an assignment through in-text citations and a reference list or bibliography.
  • If you want to paraphrase, don't just change one or two words in a sentence or paragraph - you need to rewrite the information using your own words. See Learning Support for help. 
  • Your teacher may have enabled TurnItIn within your Connect module, which you can use to check your assignment for plagiarism. For more information see this page
  • When you are working on an assignment, keep a record of the sources you use and try to create your references as you write rather than waiting until you have finished writing. This will help you remember where you got your information from and reference it correctly, avoiding accidental plagiarism. 
  • Reference your sources correctly and display them in a reference list.
  • For referencing guidelines and help, go to the Referencing Guide or talk to a TAFE QLD librarian. Library staff can help you understand when you need to reference and how to do it.  

Test your knowledge

As a student, there are some aspects of copyright law that will affect you during your studies.

Now that you have read the information try these quick questions to see what you know about copyright.

If a work does not display the copyright symbol it is still protected? Yes, it is not necessary for an author/creator to place a copyright symbol on a work, but it is a good idea to do so. The work will be copyright protected either way.
Copyright is legislation that protects the rights of authors/artists and limits the amounts that can be copied Yes, that's right. Copyright is the legal protection for authors/artists against the unauthorised copying of their work, and includes all types of information mediums, such as print or electronic.
Everything on the internet is freely available for anyone to download or copy No, it is a common misconception that anything on the internet is free to download or copy. Internet material is copyright protected.
Plagiarism is copying someone's ideas and using them as your own Yes, plagiarism includes unintentional copying without acknowledgement as well as the more intentional copying of the work of others.

Copyright is designed to protect the copyright owner against unauthorised use by others of their creative work.

  • You should always check to see if there is a statement about copyright as this may state what material you are permitted or not permitted to use.
  • Your responsibility in submitting your assignment is to present it as your own work.
  • You must ensure that you acknowledge all sources of information fairly and avoid plagiarising by referencing correctly and placing resources used in a reference list.


Copyright and disclaimer