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Copyright for Self-Publishing

I ask ChatGPT about several topics on Copyright for self-publishing. This post is a long one, as one question didn’t quite cover everything, so I asked several questions.

What ChatGPT Says about Copyright for self-publishing:

Q: Please tell me about copyright in Australia for ebooks, printed books and audiobooks

In Australia, copyright law is governed by the Copyright Act 1968. Under this act, copyright automatically applies to original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, including ebooks, printed books, and audiobooks.

  1. Ebooks: Ebooks are considered literary works and are protected by copyright in the same way as printed books. Copyright in an ebook lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years after their death.
  2. Printed books: Copyright in a printed book lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years after their death. This means that the copyright owner has exclusive rights to reproduce, publish, and sell the book during this time.
  3. Audiobooks: Audiobooks are considered a type of “cinematograph film” under the Copyright Act. Copyright in an audiobook lasts for 70 years after the death of the last surviving principal director, scriptwriter or author of the literary or dramatic work.

In Australia, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce the work, communicate the work to the public and make it available online, and publish the work. This means that, without permission from the copyright owner, it is illegal to reproduce, distribute, or sell copies of a copyrighted work.

It’s important to note that copyright laws and regulations may differ from country to country, so it’s always a good idea to consult a copyright lawyer or attorney if you have any specific questions about copyright laws in Australia.

What Anna Says:

This talks about the protection a copyright owner has. This is pretty accurate, however it is incomplete. I asked ChatGPT if it knows about the Berne Convention.

What ChatGPT Says:

Q: Please tell me about the Berne Convention for copyright

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, also known as the Berne Convention, is an international treaty that sets minimum standards for copyright protection for literary and artistic works. It was first adopted in Berne, Switzerland in 1886, and has been revised several times since then.

The Berne Convention requires that member countries provide copyright protection to foreign works in the same way that they protect the works of their own citizens. This means that a work created by an author from a member country is automatically protected by copyright in all other member countries, without the need for the author to register or file for copyright in each individual country.

The Berne Convention also requires member countries to provide certain minimum rights to copyright holders, such as the right to reproduce the work, the right to distribute copies of the work, and the right to publicly perform the work.

As of 2021, there are 170 member countries of the Berne Convention, including Australia. This means that works created by authors from Berne Convention countries are protected by copyright in Australia, and Australian authors’ works are protected by copyright in other Berne Convention countries.

It’s important to note that while the Berne Convention sets minimum standards for copyright protection, individual countries may have more stringent laws and regulations. Therefore, even if a work is protected by copyright under the Berne Convention, it’s always a good idea to consult a copyright lawyer or attorney if you have any specific questions about copyright laws in a particular country.

What Anna Says:

In summary, we have copyright protection in countries that are the 170 signatories to the Berne Convention, Australia being one of them.

Next, I asked about who owns copyright.

What ChatGPT Says:

Q: Who owns the copyright of a work? e.g. cover, text, music, etc?

In general, the person who creates a work is considered to be the initial copyright owner. This means that the author of a literary work, the composer of a musical work, the creator of a piece of art, and the maker of a film or sound recording are all considered to be the initial copyright owners of those works.

For example, if you wrote a book, you would own the copyright in the text of the book. If you hired an illustrator to create images for the cover of your book, the illustrator would own the copyright in those images. If you created an original soundtrack for your film, you would own the copyright in that music.

However, there are some exceptions and nuances to this rule. For example, if a work is created by an employee in the course of their employment, the employer will often be considered to be the copyright owner of the work, rather than the employee. Additionally, some contracts or agreements may assign or transfer copyright ownership to another party, such as a publisher or record label.

It’s worth noting that in some cases, copyright laws can vary country by country, so the copyright owner of a work in one country may not be the same as the copyright owner in another country.

In summary, the initial copyright owner of a work is usually the person who creates it, but there are exceptions, such as works created by an employee and some contracts or agreements can assign or transfer copyright ownership to another party.

What Anna Says:

This is true, that when you are the creator you are the copyright owner, unless you are an employee. However this doesn’t count for contractors – you need to specify what happens to the copyright when a contractor works for you.

Then I asked what content copyright can apply to.

What ChatGPT Says:

Q: What type of content can copyright apply to? Eg cover, title, pen name, content?

Copyright applies to a wide variety of original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, as well as sound recordings, films, and broadcasts.

When it comes to self-publishing, the types of content that may be protected by copyright include:

  1. Text: The text of a book, ebook, or other literary work is protected by copyright, as is any pre-existing text that you include in your publication.
  2. Images: Illustrations, photographs, and other images are protected by copyright, and you will need to obtain permission to use them if they are not your own work.
  3. Music: Copyright applies to songs, musical compositions, and sound recordings. If you’re including any pre-existing music in your self-published work, you’ll need to obtain permission from the copyright owner.
  4. Pen names: Copyright law doesn’t apply to pen names, pseudonyms, or other authorial identities, however, if you’re using a pen name, you might want to check the trademark laws, in case the name you want to use is already registered as a trademark by someone else.
  5. Cover design: The cover of your self-published book or other work is protected by copyright. This includes the design, illustrations, and typography.
  6. Title: Copyright doesn’t apply to the title of a work, but you may want to check if the title you’ve chosen is already registered as a trademark by someone else.

It’s important to note that copyright is automatic in Australia, which means that as soon as a work is created, it is protected by copyright, and the author or creator doesn’t need to register it.

In summary, self-publishing in Australia requires compliance with copyright laws, and if you’re using any pre-existing content, you’ll need to obtain permission from the copyright owner to use it, except for the authorial identities, pen names and titles which are not protected by copyright laws.

What Anna Says:

This tallies with what I’ve seen discussed in forums, that you can’t copyright a title or a pen name. However there can be copyright on anything else that you bring into the book such as a photograph, or audiobook such as music.

Next, I asked Bing Copilot (Bing’s use of ChatGPT) about copyright permissions, licensing and rights.

What Bing Copilot says:

Q: Copyright permissions, licensing and rights

Copyright is a type of property that is founded on a person’s creative skill and labor. The Copyright Act provides exceptions which enable some use of copyright material without the permission of the copyright owner in certain circumstances. The most important exceptions permit ‘fair dealings’ with copyright material for certain purposes: research or study; criticism or review; reporting of news ¹.

A copyright owner can give permission to someone to use their copyright (known as a ‘licence’). A copyright owner can also transfer their copyright to someone (known as an ‘assignment’), for example by sale. Assignments and licences can be restricted, for example by duration and geographical area and to cover certain uses only ².

Copyright licensing is one way to use material without infringing. Licensing is a common way for copyright owners to grant permission to others to use their copyright material on specified terms. If you want to use material that is owned by someone else you usually need permission. In copyright law permission is often issued as a licence ³.

A license to use a copyrighted work means permission to use a work in a particular way. Licenses can be written, spoken, or implied. Getting permission in writing is usually best. Exclusive licenses and transfers of copyright are not valid unless they are written and signed ⁴.

The Copyright Agency offers pay-per-use licenses for news and magazines, books, journals, and annual licenses ⁵.

Source: Conversation with Bing, 12/12/2023
(1) Copyright basics | Attorney-General’s Department.
(2) Copyright Information Sheet – Arts Law Centre of Australia.
(3) Copyright licensing | Australian Libraries and Archives Copyright Coalition.
(4) Permission and Licenses.
(5) Licences & Permission – Copyright Agency.

What Anna Says

This is an accurate picture of how to use a copyrighted work without infringing on the copyright. This is especially important when finding images, video, audio and text from the internet. Just because it’s available on the internet, it doesn’t mean it’s available for commercial use (e.g. on your website or in your book). Sites such as for images include licenses for each artwork and photo.

One type of license is the Creative Commons licenses, which have several types of licenses available for creators to choose from when sharing their work and gives the expectation of how others may use their work.

You need to know that NO response means NO permission. I learnt this the hard and expensive way. For permission to be given, it must be explicit.

In this article, I talk about copyright license terms that you may want to consider.

Note: I am not a lawyer. Seek legal advice for your own circumstances.

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