What is not protected by copyright?

Contributed by Australian Copyright Council and current to May 2022

Courts have held that copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, styles, techniques, facts or information. For example, if you tell someone of your idea for a TV show (i.e. an idea without a ‘material form’) and they use your idea to write their own original script they may not be infringing copyright.

Similarly, the idea of an adolescent wizard is not protected by copyright – meaning everyone can write a story based on that idea. However, the unique arrangement of words which make up the Harry Potter series, is protected by copyright.

For information, see the Australian Copyright Council fact sheet Ideas: Legal Protection.

Names, titles and slogans are also not protected by copyright as they are considered too small or unoriginal to qualify as a ‘work’. However, they may be protected by other areas of law such as trade marks. For information, see the Australian Copyright Council fact sheet Names, Titles and Slogans.

People’s faces are not protected by copyright. However, there are other areas of law which can affect the ways you can use photos of people e.g. defamation.

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