CQ University Law lecturer and solicitor Lance Rundle said people should consider copyright law if they were cutting and pasting content on social media.
CQ University Law lecturer and solicitor Lance Rundle said people should consider copyright law if they were cutting and pasting content on social media.

Copying and pasting content on social media is illegal

COPYING and pasting online content to social media can happen in seconds, but you could be paying for it for years, as it is a breach of Australian Copyright law, says a legal expert.

The penalties for copyright infringement, or breaching Australian Copyright law, if convicted, are a fine of up to $117,000 and up to five years jail for individuals, and a fine of up to $585,000 for corporations.

Central Queensland University Law lecturer and solicitor Lance Rundle said with the reach and popularity of social media, copyright was something all users should consider.

Mr Rundle said whether online content was copyright and covered by Australian Copyright Law, should be explicitly stated on a website.

"Normally a website will have terms and conditions about when an article can be partly reproduced or completely reproduced," he said.

"Under the Australian Copyright Act, some information and some statistics can be used if it's for educational or government purposes, but generally that's quite limited."

Mr Rundle said any content online, whether behind a paywall or not, was subject to copyright law if it is stated on the host website.

The Australian Copyright Act gives copyright owners a number of exclusive rights.

These rights relate to text, art, music, computer programs, films and sound recordings.

They include the right to reproduce copyright material, and for some types of material, to perform or screen it in public or to publish it online.

"Copyright is infringed if copyright material, or a 'substantial part' of it, is used without permission in one of the ways exclusively reserved to the copyright owner," the Australian Copyright Council states.

"Courts determine whether a part is a 'substantial part' by looking at whether it is an important, distinctive or essential part.

"The part does not necessarily have to be a large part to be 'substantial' for the purposes of copyright law."

The person who created the copyright work may not own the copyright, if they are contracted to a large company to promote or publish it, the Australian Copyright Council states.

Mr Rundle said acknowledging the author of content and its source was essential if you were posting any content that you didn't write yourself.

"If people are copying the whole content and putting it on someone else's page or on someone else's social media, they have to acknowledge it has come from a certain source," he said.

"If they try to pass it off as their own information that's even worse, and they can then be done for misleading and deceptive conduct or they could be done for passing off under copyright law.

"Ultimately they should have permission from the website owner or the author to use some or all of the content they are posting."

Paying royalties to use content is possible in some circumstances, which can be found on websites, or by contacting the publisher.

Penalties can be awarded by the court, Mr Rundle said, with the maximum penalties under Australian Copyright Law stated above.

"You can go for compensation for lost revenue that you could have derived, if they had gone through the proper channels, by entering into a licensing arrangement and paying a licensing fee," he said.

"If an article is copied and used to inaccurately reflect on it's source, then they could be potentially sued for damages if they caused defamation or loss of reputation, or loss of sales."

If copyright has been infringed, the copyright owner has six years from the date of the infringement to take legal action.

"Action can be taken in either the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court," The Australia Copyright Agency states.

"Action can also be taken in State and Territory Supreme Courts, and sometimes other State courts, depending on whether or not they have the power to grant the remedies that the copyright owner seeks."



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