Breaking Down Copyright Mythology – Volume 1



1 July, 2015
Posted by Mike

Breaking Down Copyright Mythology

We get a lot of questions at Studio Legal about content takedowns from platforms like YouTube and SoundCloud, using Creative Commons licences, the “rules” of sampling and other digital grey areas. In this blog series, we’ll aim to break down some of the online copyright myths and misunderstandings, so that you’re able to use online content safely and legally!

Vol. 1 – Creative Commons Licences

A good starting point for explaining Creative Commons is the copyright statement found at the bottom of most movie credits – the ominous “ALL RIGHTS RESERVED”. While not actually a legal requirement in Australia, it begs the question: what rights are they talking about?

Copyright is often described as a “bundle of exclusive rights” that a copyright owner (an artist, author, musician, record label or film studio) is permitted to exercise in relation to the copyright work (the painting, book, song, album or movie).

These rights are numerous, but very simply put – they relate to the right to ‘copy’ the work. For instance, the Reproduction Right allows an artist to take her master recording and print 1000 CDs, digitize it for sale on iTunes, offer it for free download on Soundcloud, or give permission for a producer to remix the track with the master stems.

These rights are exclusive to the copyright owner, meaning only the artist (or any ‘authorised person’ such as the remix producer) can exercise them. By claiming “All Rights Reserved”, they signal to the world that they don’t allow any other person to copy, share or remix the work without explicit permission – that is, their (copy)rights are reserved.

“All Rights Reserved” is the default setting – in Australia, it is implied in every copyright work, regardless of whether the ominous notice appears.

Creative Commons lets a copyright owner change this default setting, by allowing other people to share and copy their work (with conditions attached). It’s akin to branding your work Some Rights Reserved”, and provides some flexibility where owners wish to share and allow copying of their work without having to grant explicit permission to every person that wishes to use the work – a difficult task in the age of the Internet.

There are six CC licences available to copyright owners, with a handy flowchart available here courtesy of the CC Australia team. Each has different conditions attached, allowing different rights to be exercised freely by others, without permission being sought from the copyright owner.

The strictest licence (the closest to ‘All Rights Reserved’) is the ‘Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works’ licence.
It permits sharing (copying or redistributing) of the work, but only for non-commercial purposes and only if the original owner is credited. Remixes (derivative works) are not permitted under this licence.

On the open end of the CC spectrum, an ‘Attribution-ShareAlike licence provides more freedom to share, adapt and remix the work, even for commercial purposes. Remixers and people sharing the work must still credit the owner, and cannot claim a different licence for their new remix, they must Share Alike in the same way as the original.

Only copyright owners have the right to grant a Creative Commons licence. If a work is licenced under Creative Commons, you may be permitted to remix the work, or include it in your DJ mix as long as you’re properly crediting the owner.

Music platforms like SoundCloud offer a number of Creative Commons licence options to anyone uploading original material. If you are not the original owner of the work (eg. you’re uploading a remix of a non-CC work, or a non-CC work is included in your DJ mix), you cannot claim a CC licence on the content.

There seem to be plenty of SoundCloud users misusing the CC licence – these claims that their DJ mixes are “CC Licenced” don’t mean much, as they’re likely to be full of non-CC works and still liable to be taken down for copyright infringement. Remixes work the same way; unless the original track was released under a CC-licence, you cannot claim a CC-licence applies to your remix. To avoid takedowns or infringement claims, you should ensure the original work is CC-licenced, or alternatively obtain permission from the original copyright owner.

SoundCloud offer a guide to use of their services, and how to best avoid a copyright infringement claim. Generally, if you’re uploading original material that you’ve composed or you have the rights to, you’re unlikely to run into trouble. For DJ mixes, podcasts and radio shows that rely on copyright-protected content, other services such as MixCloud might be more suitable.

Written by Mike Katz, Studio Legal (C) 2015.  


The information in this article is of a general nature. It does not constitute formal legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please see the full disclaimer in our website terms. Please contact Studio Legal if you are seeking advice about a specific legal matter

For further information on copyright, licensing and creative commons, please contact or phone the office 03 9521 2128.