Copyright Permissions

Contributed by Australian Copyright Council and current to May 2022

If you wish to use the whole or a substantial part of another person’s copyright material in any of the ways listed in Copyright Owner Rights, unless you can rely on a copyright exception, you will need to get permission from the copyright owner, unless you can rely on a copyright exception.

How do I get permission?

Permission will either come directly from the copyright owner, the copyright owner’s authorised representative, or from a copyright collecting agency that collects on behalf of the copyright owner. You cannot presume that you have permission just because a copyright owner does not respond to you.

See the Australian Copyright Council fact sheet Permission: How to Get It for list of copyright collecting agencies that you can contact for permission.

Orphan Works

An orphan work is a copyright item where the copyright owner is unknown, missing or cannot be located.

In Australia, there is no specific exception that allows people to use orphan works without permission simply because the copyright owner cannot be determined or located. If you have tried to contact a copyright owner without success and decide to use their material anyway, you will have technically infringed copyright unless a copyright exception applies. However, you may be able to mitigate your liability for the infringement if you take certain steps beforehand.

For further details, see the Australian Copyright Council fact sheet Orphan Works.

Permission from the copyright owner is given in the form of a licence which may involve a fee. The main licences are listed below. See also the Australian Copyright Council fact sheet Assigning & Licensing Rights.

Exclusive licence

Under an exclusive licence, the licensee is the only person who may use the copyright material in the ways covered by the licence – even the copyright owner is barred from those specified uses while the exclusive licence is active.

An exclusive licence must be in writing and signed by or on behalf of the copyright owner (s 10).

Non-exclusive licence

A non-exclusive licence is a licence that a copyright owner can give to more than one person.

Unlike an exclusive licence, a non-exclusive licence can be made verbally or be implied/assumed from the circumstances.

It is strongly recommended that all licences to use copyright material be in writing to avoid uncertainty and misunderstanding about the scope of the licence.

Open licences

An open licence is one where the copyright owner essentially ‘pre-approves’ the use of their material, meaning that anyone can use their material without having to ask them for permission provided that the user adheres to certain conditions (e.g. non-commercial use). The most well-known type of open licence are Creative Commons licences (

For further details, see the Australian Copyright Council fact sheet Creative Commons Licences.

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