School operations

Intellectual Property and Copyright


The purpose of this policy is to provide schools with information on managing intellectual property in accordance with the Department’s Intellectual Property and Copyright PolicyExternal Link .



Schools typically create and use intellectual property, including copyright, on a daily basis.

Intellectual property (IP) is a term used to encompass a range of legal rights that protect the creations of the mind and creative effort. Patents, trademarks and registered designs are examples of IP, as is copyright.

Copyright refers to the rights granted to the creators or copyright holders of original works. Copyright protects owners’ rights to control how their works are used. Generally, permission must be obtained before using work protected by copyright. Copyright protection lasts for a specific period of time. Once that period has ended (usually 70 years after the death of the creator), the work can be used without the need for permission or payment.

Copyright is the form of IP most commonly created and/or used in the Department and schools. Examples of material protected by IP or copyright that school staff might encounter include:

  • curriculum material
  • text books and other teaching resources
  • software and apps
  • films, videos and podcasts

Everyday uses that schools make of material protected by copyright include photocopying, scanning, downloading, screen captures, performances and screenings.

Schools must manage and use IP, including copyright, in line with the following principles.

IP Principles

1. The Department makes its IP available with the fewest possible restrictions

The Department and schools create IP that can benefit others when shared. The recommended way to share original copyright material with the broader school community and the public is to use a Creative Commons licence. Creative Commons copyright licences allow everyone to freely re-use and share copyright material as long as the owner is credited as the copyright holder. For example, on its website and in its publications, the Department makes the content it has created available under a Creative Commons licence. Schools can similarly licence content on their websites and the original teaching materials they create.

2. The Department owns the IP created by its employees in the course of their work

School staff create copyright material in the course of their work. Copyright material created by school staff is owned by the Department (on behalf of the State). This reflects the usual legal position; employers own IP in materials created by employees in the course of their work.

3. The Department appropriately manages IP belonging to others

Schools must treat IP belonging to others (third party IP) in compliance with the law. It is also important to acknowledge the moral rights of creators by crediting their works.

Students hold rights as creators of their own work. Permission must be obtained before using student IP outside of ordinary internal educational purposes, for example, when uploading student artwork to a school website.

The Department holds licences that allow schools to use a third party’s copyright material in specific ways. It is the responsibility of everybody to use material within licence terms and in compliance with the law. Information on the licences held by the Department is available on the Guidance tab. Further, more detailed information on the licences for educational uses of copyright material can be found on the Australian schools’ Smartcopying websiteExternal Link .

4. IP is managed in Departmental procurement, contracts, and shared funding agreements

Procurement for goods or services often results in IP being generated. The contract templates for school procurement include IP clauses, but it is important to think through the full range of IP requirements of each project that the contract will need to cover. A school may engage external parties in a variety of projects that include IP, for example, engaging a company to develop a school website, or procuring photographic services for school photos.

5. The Department does not ordinarily commercialise its IP

Schools are not in the business of selling IP. Original copyright material created by school staff should, in most circumstances, be released for free (for example, under a Creative Commons licence) for the benefit of the whole community.

Help is available for schools wishing to release and share school-created materials. See the Guidance tab for information or contact the Department’s Copyright Team for advice.

6. Departmental employees must not commercialise Departmental IP for their own purposes

Staff must not commercialise IP created in schools for personal or private gain, including selling teaching resources on social media or using Departmental IP to develop apps.

7. IP should be identified and recorded appropriately

Records must be kept for arrangements that include IP, such as subscriptions, apps and software agreements, licenced teaching resources, permissions to use copyright material granted by third-parties and consents to use students’ IP.

It is recommended that schools keep a central record of these licences and permissions. This will help schools to effectively manage IP and copyright, including being able to easily identify materials that should be excluded from payment in copyright surveys so the Department is not charged twice for their use.

Relevant legislation

Department policy on managing intellectual property in schools

Reviewed 08 December 2023

Policy last updated

19 March 2021


  • Schools
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