6 Understanding Copyright

Before you begin writing, make sure you have a firm grasp of what copyright means and how applying an open-copyright licence, typically a Creative Commons licence will affect your open text. In Australia, copyright law is set out in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). This is federal legislation and applies throughout Australia.

You are probably familiar with the ‘Ten Per Cent Rule’ or Statutory Education licence (Section 113P of the Australian Copyright Act), which allows you to copy an insubstantial amount of literary or other work for educational purposes.

While you can use this Statutory Education licence when creating course guides and reading lists shared with enrolled students behind an institutional login, it does not apply to published works like open texts.

Most publishers require you to seek permission before reproducing third-party content like images, figures or substantial quotes in works that are publicly available. As such, when creating an open text you can only rely on content with a Creative Commons licence, or content in which you’ve received written permission from the copyright owner to use.

Seeking Permission

You will need to seek permission from the copyright holder to use copyright material in an OER. You will also need permission to use openly licensed materials if they have incompatible licences, (for example, combining CC BY-SA and CC BY-NC materials), or if your use falls outside the licence scope, for example adapting CC BY-ND material.

Firstly, check the copyright status and terms and conditions of the material. Many people and companies set out the terms relating to permission to use their copyrighted material on the site itself. This usually happens in one of three ways:

  1. The material itself may contain information on its permitted uses (there may be an indication near where the content is posted).
  2. The website may have a section entitled ‘Copyright’, ‘permissions’ or similar and will contain copyright and permissions information for material on the site.
  3. The site’s terms and conditions will specify how the material is used.

Many publishers request you seek permission via online forms. Alternatively, send an email to the copyright owner, outlining how you wish to use the content. Please use and adapt the permission template below.

Resource – Permission Templates

Permission templates for the use of third-party content

Use and adapt this permission template when seeking permission for third-party content.

Talent release form

Use and adapt this talent release form template when including photography or videography of others.

Remember to record all materials you intend to use and any permissions you may have obtained.

Resource – Copyright Tracker Template

Please use the Content Copyright Tracker to keep track of the content you are using in your open text and any permissions you may have sought.

How to use this tracker

The content in your open educational resource must be copyright compliant. This tracker will help you check that all the content in your open resource is safe to use and is compatible with the Creative Commons licence you have chosen for your work.

Where required, the Open Educational Practices team will seek permission from the copyright owner to use their resources or source open alternatives. As an author, please complete the tracker as you write your manuscript.

Understanding UniSQ’s Intellectual Property Policy

If you plan to use intellectual property (IP) that results from your work at UniSQ you need to be aware of the University’s position on IP ownership. You may not have the right to include such material in an openly published text without permission, even when you developed the work yourself.

You also need to be mindful of who owns the copyright for work you have done yourself. Copyright of published research generally belongs to either the researcher or to the publisher, whereas the copyright of learning and teaching materials produced by UniSQ staff generally belongs to the University.

If you wish to use learning and teaching content that you have developed during your employment at UniSQ in an open text, please contact the OEP team who will seek permission from the University for the work to be released under a Creative Commons licence.

Using Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property

Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) refers to the right of Indigenous Australians to protect their cultural heritage, including all aspects of art, knowledge systems, and culture (Janke, 2022). When planning to include Indigenous content in OER, it is vital to be cognisant of ICIP and to respect the rights of Indigenous individuals and communities to be consulted and provide consent.

It is crucial to seek appropriate Indigenous permissions to use or disseminate Indigenous knowledge. The Australia Council for the Arts’ has created protocols for using First Nations cultural and intellectual property in the arts, which provides guidance and information about Indigenous protocols.

Be aware that Indigenous cultural IP may not fit into traditional areas of copyright and reuse. It’s best to seek out help from those who have expertise in this area. Contact the First Nations College or Copyright Services for guidance on this.


Australian Copyright Council. (2019). An introduction to copyright in Australia. https://www.copyright.org.au/ACC_Prod/ACC/Information_Sheets/An_Introduction_to_Copyright_in_Australia.aspx?WebsiteKey=8a471e74-3f78-4994-9023-316f0ecef4ef

Australian Copyright Council. (2020). Quotes and extracts. https://www.copyright.org.au/ACC_Prod/ACC/Information_Sheets/Quotes___Extracts.aspx?WebsiteKey=8a471e74-3f78-4994-9023-316f0ecef4ef

Janke, T. (2022). Indigenous cultural and intellectual property (ICIP). Terry Janke and Company. https://www.terrijanke.com.au/icip

Chapter Attribution

This chapter has been adapted in parts from:


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Open Publishing Guide for Authors Copyright © 2023 by University of Southern Queensland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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