The right to control the copying of your own work – whether it be a piece of writing, a computer programme, music, art or film – is protected under copyright and intellectual property law.


Margaret Ryan

Lawyer and Trade Marks Attorney

Loss of copyright protection

Last updated

1 July 2022

Copyright protection for an artistic work can be lost, in part, if the copyright owner allows the artistic work to be applied industrially, and articles to which the artistic work have been applied are offered for sale anywhere in the world (s 77 Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (‘Copyright Act’)). 

An artistic work is taken to be applied industrially if it is applied to over 50 articles (reg 12 Copyright Regulations 2017 (Cth)). However, depending on the facts, industrial application can occur with less than 50 articles. For example, if an artist draws a design for a chair, once 51 chairs are made and offered for sale, other people can make identical chairs without infringing the copyright in the artist’s drawing. This can be a real trap for designers and small-scale manufacturers.

To prevent other people applying an artistic work industrially, the copyright owner must register the work as a design under the Designs Act 2003 (Cth) before an article to which the design has been applied industrially has been publicised or sold. Information about design registration is available from IP Australia’s website.

Copyright protection for an artistic work is not lost if the work is applied to the surface of an article (e.g. a drawing on a greeting card), or if the work is a building, a model of a building, or a work of artistic craftsmanship (see ‘Artistic works’ in ‘What material can be subject to copyright?’ in ‘What is copyright?‘).

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