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Copyright at MIT

About this Guide

This guide provides copyright information and links (but not legal advice) which are relevant to the MIT community including students, teaching staff and researchers.

For copyright matters not covered in this Guide, including copyright surveys, licenses and breaches of copyright, contact the Library.

Help is also available from the organisations listed in the External Copyright Contacts box below.

Many thanks go to the University of Canberra Library for allowing the use of their guide to make this one.

What is Copyright?

Copyright grants exclusive rights to authors and creators of works, the copyright owners, to enable them to determine how their work can be used so their moral and economic interests are protected. 

This means that copyright may restrict:

  • reproduction
  • publication
  • performance
  • communication to the public
  • adaptation of the work


You must obtain permission from the copyright owner to use material in the above ways. Generally, copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the creator of a work. However, copyright duration varies for different categories of material.

Copyright Resources

The Australian Copyright Council provides advocacy, advice and information on copyright issues.

Fact sheets 

Research or Study Copyright



External Copyright Contacts


What Material is Covered under Copyright?

Categories protected by copyright include:

  • Literary works - including books, newspaper articles, computer programs and compilations including anthologies and directories
  • Dramatic works - including plays, dance and mime
  • Musical works - including scores and combinations of melody and harmony
  • Artistic works - including paintings, drawings, cartoons, photographs, sculpture and craft work
  • Cinematograph films - including films, videos and TV programs
  • Sound recordings - including compact discs, tapes and records
  • Broadcasts - television programs and sound broadcasts
  • Published editions - the way in which an individual edition of a work is presented, including typesetting etc.


Check the duration of copyright for different categories of material.

Exceptions and Special Agreements

The Copyright Act's 'Fair dealing' allows the use of text material without permission for the following purposes:

  1. research or study - 10% or one chapter/article
  2. criticism or review - must acknowledge the work
  3. parody or satire
  4. reporting news
  5. professional advice e.g. by a lawyer

(Australian Copyright Council Fair Dealing 2014)

Educational institutions also have special agreements with copyright owners to allow them to digitise and electronically communicate copyright material.

Some works may be copied under Creative Commons licence.

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