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How do you protect your work online?

As a creator, the great thing about the internet is that you can upload your work and share it with people around the world for very little cost. However, people can illegally download and copy your work without your permission.

This is why it is very important to protect the words, images, music and films you put on the internet.

The information on this page will be helpful if you use the internet to:

  • show your artworks on websites;
  • share your videos or films;
  • use other people’s words, images and information in your own work;
  • blog or write your thoughts, comments or ideas on websites; or
  • communicate with friends on social networking sites.

On this page:

Copyright

Copyright is important because it protects your work against use by others without your permission and allows you get money for your work.

Copyright laws protect electronic versions of your work as much as your ‘real’ or material work such as painting or photograph.

Other people need your permission or licence to use your works.

Piracy

With digital technology, it is very easy for people to copy or use other people’s work without permission. This happens a lot with music or film on the internet.

Everyday, people use the internet to copy and share other people’s work for free, and without permission. This is called piracy.

Protecting your work

There are ways to protect material you upload on the internet from being used without your permission:

To protect your visual art, you can:

  • add a visible watermark to your images before uploading them;
  • disable right-click;
  • add invisible information to your images online;
  • tell users that a high quality version is available to buy;
  • upload low-resolution images only (no more than 72dpi);
  • put the © notice with your name next to your work; and
  • give people an easy way to contact you – for example, by providing an email address. It will be easier for someone to ask for your permission to use your work.

To protect your music, you can:

  • hide information into your music – this is called digital watermarking;
  • upload low-quality recordings only – a compression rate less than 49 kilobits per second;
  • tell users that a high-quality version is available to buy;
  • attach the © notice with your name next to your recordings;
  • give people an easy way to contact you – for example, by providing an email address. It will be easier for someone to ask for your permission to use your work.

To protect your film, you can:

  • hide information to track your film – this is called digital fingerprinting;
  • upload low quality versions only – a compression rate less than 151 kilobits per second for video and 49 kilobits per second for the sound;
  • tell users that a high-quality version is available to buy;
  • put the © notice with your name into your film;
  • give people an easy way to contact you – for example, by providing an email address. It will be easier for someone to ask for your permission to use your work

Important things to remember

  • The internet is a very public place for showing your work. Millions of people use the internet, and have access to anything that you put there.
  • Showing your work on the internet can increase the risk of someone copying your work without your permission.
  • Australian copyright law protects most things on the internet, including your work.
  • It is illegal to download or share copies of images, songs, movies, or TV shows without the copyright owner’s written permission.
  • Put the copyright notice, your name, and the year to anything you upload, for example: © Jane Smith 2016.
  • Only put low-quality versions of images, sound recordings or video on the internet.
  • Make it as easy as possible for people to contact you
  • Add a visible watermark to images before uploading
  • Disable right-clicking to make it harder to copy an image

Legal Tips

  • Work out what uses of your work you will allow before putting any material online: for example:
    • Can people buy it online?
    • Can people download it?
    • Is it available for private use only, or can it be used in public?
  • Make sure that people know you are the copyright owner of your work and what they can do with your work.
  • Use a search engine to see if other people are using your material.
  • If your copyright is infringed get legal advice and take action. Learn more about how to take action on the following pages.