Digital citizenship & copyright

As a good digital citizen you respect intellectual property and the rights of content creators and use and share information ethically. This topic will help you to understand your rights and responsibilities as creators and consumers of media online.

Learning outcomes

This topic will assist in your understanding of:

  • what is digital citizenship
  • copyright basics and the types of work protected by copyright
  • your rights and responsibilities as creators and consumers of media online


Digital citizenship is the ability to relate effectively to the digital world of people, technologies and systems. As a good digital citizen, you respect intellectual property and the rights of content creators and use and share information ethically. As a university student it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities as creators and consumers of media online.

In this video the concept of ‘fair use’ is shown, which is a type of copyright use in the United States. In Australia, students use the copyright provision called ‘fair dealing’.

When it comes to copyright, it’s easy to end up frozen in place thinking about what you should or shouldn’t do legally. You may worry about what information you can include in your assignments or be confronted with systems that prevent you from being creative with digital content that inspires you.

Copyright is an integral aspect of a university environment and life in general. Most people are familiar with the copyright symbol. You may have seen this symbol in the title pages of books, stamped on images, or appearing in the footer of web pages.

Copyright symbol by Unknown via Wikimedia Commons.

Copyright is a type of intellectual property which protects the rights of creators to determine how their original works may be used, including whether they can be copied and shared. In Australia, copyright is embodied in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).

The purpose of the copyright system is two-fold:

  • It ensures creators receive some form of payment or credit for their creative work over a certain period of time.
  • The system arguably incentivises creativity by protecting the rights of creators.

Under Australian law, works do not need to be registered to be protected by copyright. It is also important to note that once granted, copyright protection is not permanent. When copyright protection ceases, the work is considered to be in the public domain.

The types of works that are protected by copyright are divided into two categories:

  • ‘Works’ (literary, artistic, dramatic and musical).
  • ‘Materials other than works’ (sound recordings, films, TV and radio broadcasts, and published editions).

The Southern Cross University Copyright guide for Students explains further the key concepts of copyright and what you can legally use or copy as a student. Certain uses of works will not infringe copyright as they are seen as ‘fair dealing’.

The guide also identifies sources of licensed content (that can be used for educational purposes at Southern Cross University) as well as online content that can be used freely under clearly designated Creative Commons licences, or which are in the public domain (copyright has lapsed, or the original copyright owner has given up their copyright).

“A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that he/she has created.” – Wikipedia

More information on Creative Commons licensing can also be found in the Sourcing and creating multimedia topic which focuses on content formats such as images, audio and video.

There are a number of myths about copyright. Often you hear someone say “I found it on the internet so it’s free”. The video below isn’t specifically aimed at university students, but it explains some of the more common copyright myths and misconceptions.

Reusing content – what you should check!

During your studies, you may be asked to complete an assessment or project which contains multiple types of media (images, audio, animations, and video content).

Technology makes it increasingly easy to obtain and manipulate content — to create mashups, remixes, and memes. If you want to reuse someone else’s creative work, how can you do this ethically and be sure you are respecting other people’s rights as creators?

In most cases a “No copyright infringement intended” disclaimer is not the answer. Before you reuse someone else’s image, video or audio you should consider:

  • the copyright status of the item and whether any exemptions for use exist
  • any licence conditions (if relevant)
  • the moral rights of creators

Not considering these factors can negatively impact your project. For instance, if the project is for a university assignment, infringing copyright or failing to appropriately credit a source could mean you receive a lower mark or inadvertently commit plagiarism (which is a form of academic misconduct).


  1. Copyright in the last several years has been a hot topic in the media. Read one of the following news articles and reflect on the issues outlined in the articles.
  1. Take a look at the Australian Copyright Council Fact Sheets for information on relevant copyright topics.

Content in this topic is reused and adapted from Digital Essentials by UQ Library Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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