Copyright and Licensing



Horia Varlan, Large copyright sign made of jigsaw puzzle pieces , used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0



Tackling the Copyright Puzzle, by Tahnee Pearse

Copyright – What is it?

  • In Australia, copyright is governed by the Copyright Act 1968 and applies automatically on the creation of a work.
  • It protects the rights of the creator.

It gives the owners exclusive rights to :

  • Reproduce the work
  • Publish the work
  • Perform the work in public
  • Communicate the work to the public
  • Make, reproduce, publish, perform or communicate an adaptation of the work.

The Copyright Act also includes a section on the moral rights of the creator of a work which seeks to ensure the creator is attributed and the integrity of their work is maintained.

The Digital Challenge

“The internet has profoundly changed the way we access, share and create content. It enables widespread access to knowledge, new opportunities for community participation and fosters digital innovation.” (Australian Digital Alliance 2013, Righting the Copyright imbalance, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0).

“The digital age has presented many and diverse challenges for copyright law. The rapid uptake of digital, networked technologies led to widespread online distribution of content, as well as the emergence of new practices and technologies that enabled digital content to be shared, reused and remixed on an unprecedented scale.

But while technology provided the capacity for sharing and reuse of content to occur on a vast scale, legal restrictions on the use of copyright material hampered its negotiability in the digital environment”. (Fitzgerald & Hooper 2013, ‘Explainer – Creative Commons’, The Conversation, used under a Creative Commons Attribution – No Derivatives 4.0).

Getting the right blend …

To assist with understanding this digital challenge, at USQ we have started describing resource use for learning and teaching in terms of a blend because we recognise that the resources that are used are not sourced from one location. For example, resources may be found on the Internet, in hard copy in the Library or accessed via a subscription database.

Thus when creating learning and teaching materials we blend different resources that are covered by different copyrights or licenses. This approach enables educators to enhance the teaching and learning experience by making informed decisions regarding the use of resources within moral rights and copyrights.

Making an informed decision

There are three key questions we recommend you ask when deciding whether to use a resource in online teaching and learning materials –

  1. What is it?
  2. What was the original format?
  3. How do I wish to use the resource?

The Copyright Matrix

At USQ we have developed a Copyright Matrix, based on these questions, to assist you in making decisions about when or when not to use a resource in a certain way.

The Matrix takes into account the impact of the following copyright or licensing allowances –
Copyright Act 1968
• Subscription Licenses (For a listing see the USQ eResources guide)
• Other Licenses eg. APRA/AMCOS licenses
• Open Access Licenses

Open Access Licenses

Open Access Licenses are applied by copyright owners of a work in addition to the copyright that already exists in the work (Fitzgerald & Fitzgerald 2004).

UNESCO has defined Open Educational Resources (OERs) as “teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution” (UNESCO 2012).

There are a number of licenses, however the most widespread used for licensing OERs is Creative Commons (Bissell 2009, p. 103). In this environment, users and creators of OERs require a working knowledge of Creative Commons licensing.

There are six main licenses, made up of a mix of four elements.

The four elements are –

Attribution (BY) BY – This applies to every Creative Commons work. Whenever a work is copied or redistributed under a Creative Commons license, the original creator (and any other nominated parties) must be credited and the source linked to.

NCNon-Commericial (NC) – Lets others copy, distribute, display and perform the work for non-commercial purposes only.


NDNo Derivatives (ND) – Lets others distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work. They may not adapt or change the work in any way


SA Share Alike (SA) – Allows others to remix, adapt and build on the work, but only if they distribute the derivative works under the same the licence terms that govern the original work.


The six main licences are :

Attribution (CC BY) cc by

This licence allows users to distribute, remix and build upon a work, and create Derivative Works – even for commercial use – provided they credit the original creator/s (and any other nominated parties). This is the most accommodating of the licences in terms of what others can do with the work.

cc by saAttribution – Share Alike (CC BY-SA)

This license allows users to distribute, remix and build upon the work, and create Derivative Works – even for commercial purposes – as long as they credit the original creator/s (and any other nominated parties) and license any new creations based on the work under the same terms. All new Derivative Works will carry the same license, so will also allow commercial use.

cc by ndAttribution – No Derivatives (CC BY-ND)

This license allows others to distribute the work, even for commercial purposes, as long as the work is unchanged, and the original creator/s (and any other nominated parties) are credited.

cc ncAttribution – Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC)

This license lets others distribute, remix and build upon the work, but only if it is for non-commercial purposes and they credit the original creator/s (and any other nominated parties). They don’t have to license their Derivative Works on the same terms.

cc by nc saAttribution – Non-Commercial – Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA)

This license lets others distribute, remix and build upon the work, but only if it is for non-commercial purposes, they credit the original creator/s (and any other nominated parties) and they license their derivative works under the same terms.

cc by nc ndAttribution – Non-Commercial – No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)

This license is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, allowing redistribution of the work in its current form only. This license is often called the ‘free advertising’ license because it allows others to download and share the work as long as they credit the original creator/s (and any other nominated parties), they don’t change the material in any way and they don’t use it commercially.

(Creative Commons Australia, 2014, About the Licenses, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

For more information about Creative Commons Licenses, see this article by Anne Fitzgerald and Neale Hooper – Explainer: Creative Commons, The Conversation and the Creative Commons Australia factsheet entitled, About the Licences.

Finding resources with Open Access Licenses

For a list of websites from which to launch a search for open access licensed items access this site.
A good place to start is the Creative Commons Search page.


As you can see in all of the above Creative Commons licenses, it is essential you attribute the resource that is being used.

The key elements to include in an attribution are – the creator, title of the work, the website address where the work is hosted, the type of license it is available under and the website address of the license. See the Copyright puzzle image at the start of this post for a good example.
To learn how to do this, access the Creative Commons Australia Attribution Fact Sheet or view the video by Adrian Stagg, eLearning Designer at USQ entitled, How do I Attribute Creative Commons Licensed Material?

Need further help?

This blog post focusses on copyright and learning and teaching. If you require further information regarding Copyright and Research, please access this site or contact your Copyright Information Officer.

Now it’s time for you to have a go!

1. Search for an image using the Creative Commons Search.
2. Post and Attribute the image correctly on your Blog/Facebook/Twitter account.


Australian Digital Alliance 2013, Righting the Copyright imbalance, Australian Digital Alliance, Canberra, viewed 7 July 2014, .

Bissell, A.N. 2009, ‘Permission granted: open licensing for educational resources’, Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 97-106.

Creative Commons Australia, 2014, About the Licences, Creative Commons, Brisbane, viewed 7 July 2014,

Fitzgerald, A. & Fitzgerald, B. 2004, Intellectual Property in Principle, Thomson Lawbook Co., Pyrmont, New South Wales.

Fitzgerald, A. & Hooper, N. 2013, ‘Explainer – Creative Commons’, The Conversation, 19 December, viewed 7 July 2014,

UNESCO 2012, Communication and Information – Open Educational Resources, UNESCO, Paris, viewed 7 July 2014,


6 thoughts on “Copyright and Licensing

  1. Pingback: The thing about copyright | DrAlb

  2. Tahnee Pearse

    Thanks Peter, I agree copyright can be complicated. Your strategies to make things easier in an online environment by using the attribution helper and creating permanent links to library subscription resources are great. For more information about permanent linking, access the EZproxy Explained Library Guide.

    1. Peter Albion

      My helper for EZproxy links is a textexpander snippet that expands ‘zp’ to ‘’. When working from home in my browser I put my cursor in front of the URL of something I want and think might be in the USQ Library and magically get the EZproxy version. That works a treat :-)

  3. Tahnee Pearse

    Hi Hoda,

    With regards to your question about the ‘right blend’, as this approach is a new concept that we are developing at USQ we are still working on spreading the word and developing skills and knowledge. We are currently holding workshops focussed on Copyright for Teaching and Learningaimed at developing copyright knowledge when making use of the range of resources available (eg. library resources, including subscription databases and open access resources).
    As a result of this increased awareness, we are hoping to make available some examples of such resource blends. I will make sure we promote these widely when they are available.

    Thanks, Tahnee


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