Intellectual Property and Copyright

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The Department’s Intellectual Property and Copyright Policy sets out a principles-based approach to intellectual property management. The policy applies to all departmental staff, including school staff.

For information on copying during the COVID-19 'learning from home' period, refer to: Remote & Online Learning During the COVID-19 Outbreak on the Smartcopying website.  Updates, including free resources, can be found at: COVID-19 Copyright Issues

Purpose of the policy 

To ensure all staff comply with whole of Government requirements when creating or using intellectual property (IP), including: 

  • using third party IP, including copyright material, in a transparent and efficient way, while upholding the law and managing risk appropriately
  • granting rights to the Department's IP; including copyright material, as a public asset, to maximise its impact, value, accessibility and benefit consistent with the public interest
  • understanding that IP and copyright material created in the course of their work is owned by the Department and employees do not commercialise departmental IP for their own purposes.

Copyright law protects the material expression of an idea, but not the idea itself. Copyright material is described as 'works' and 'other subject matter' and includes:

  • art (including photos, illustrations, graphs, charts)
  • literature (broadly including all text-based works and web pages)
  • music
  • films
  • broadcasts.

Web pages, podcasts, stock images and teaching resources are all examples of material that may be protected by copyright.

Using copyright material 

In general, copyright materials can only be used in the ways that the owner specifies. For schools, material can usually be used if:

  • it is covered under a Creative Commons licence
  • it is owned by the Department, other state or territory education departments or other Victorian government departments
  • it is covered by a licence held by the Department that permits the intended use
  • a statutory exception applies, such as Fair Dealing
  • copyright has expired (generally 70 years after the death of the author)
  • specific permission has been obtained from the copyright owner.

The Department holds licences for schools' uses of copyright material. Generally, these licences apply only to schools' internal uses of copyright material for educational purposes.

The Copyright Guidelines for Victorian Government Schools (2008) is being updated and will be shared soon.

The Smartcopying website is the official guide to copyright for Australian schools. It provides comprehensive information about copying under the education licences, see: Further resources

Attributing copyright material

Material not created by teachers or the Department is referred to as third-party content. Third-party content must be attributed when it is copied or communicated.


  • is the acknowledgment of the original creator of a work
  • is usually displayed close to the work, for example, in the caption to a photograph
  • includes the work's title, the name of the creator/owner, the source, and note the terms under which it was copied (for example 'used with permission' or 'licensed under CC BY').

Creators often specify how to attribute their work and these instructions should be followed.

For examples, see: Attribution of text and artistic works

Releasing the Department's copyright material to the public

A Creative Commons licence allows an organisation or creator to retain copyright in their material while setting out easily understood licence terms for the public to re-use it.

The Department's Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence:

  • is suitable for most material the Department produces for release to the public
  • allows users to copy, communicate, adapt and redistribute its copyright material in any medium or format without seeking permission, as long as appropriate attribution is included with the re-use
  • does not allow re-use of Department and government logos, trademarks and branding, or content supplied by third parties.

Unless there is a reason why particular material should not be released to the public in this way, use the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence found in the Department's communications templates.

For help deciding whether material can be released under this licence, check the Department's Copyright Release Guidelines: How to release our content under a copyright licence (docx - 203.66kb)

Further resources



 Smartcopyingwhich includes:

Related legislation

  • Copyright Act 1968