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The National Library has developed a Copyright Status calculator as part of the Rights Management project.  This web service uses a set of rules based on Australian copyright law, and metadata from the catalogue record, to determine whether a work is in copyright.

It is important to note that the copyright status will only be accurate if the relevant data in the catalogue record is accurate and complete.  The "material type rules" below show where the service finds the relevant metadata.  National Library staff have agreed on some risk management rules for cases where the metadata is not available.  For example, to understand how the service handles cases where the creator's life dates are not known or not recorded in the catalogue, see the "determine life dates rule".

Using the information from the catalogue record, the service calculates the copyright status as follows:

  1. Check whether the work has at least one individual creator or contributor (that is, a person not a corporate or government body).  If the work does not have one or more individual creators or contributors, and is not a government work, use the "anonymous rule" below.
  2. Check the material type for the work using the "material type rules" defined below.  If the work doesn't match any of the defined material types, or the record is for a collection which may include more than one material type, show that the material type is "Undetermined".  Different material types have different rules and the service can only apply rules if it knows the material type.  So, when the material type for a work is undetermined, the copyright status is also undetermined.
  3. Once the material type is known, apply the copyright rules for that material type (see diagrams below).
  4. If the rules require creator/contributor life dates and the information from the catalogue is not complete, use the "determine life dates rule".  For example, if death date not known, add 100 years to birth date. If neither birth nor death date known, add 100 years to creation or publication date.
  5. If the rules require a publication date and there is more than one date, use the "published edition rule".
  6. Display the copyright status and the information that was used to determine the status.

Anonymous rule

Data Sources

Material type rules

The following rules show how we determine the material type from a MARC record.

Type of work


Artistic works and computer software

Artistic work if 300 field contains one of the following: watercolour; drawing; painting; and not any of the other test words (e.g. not photograph, not lithograph).
Computer software if leader (000) character position 6 contains an 'm'.


Engraving if 300 field contains one of the following: engraving; etching; drypoint; lithograph; chromolithograph; woodcut; woodblock; linocut;  aquatint; mezzotint; pochoir; collotype; photogravure and not any of the other test words (e.g not photograph, not watercolour).

Literary, dramatic and musical works

Literary or dramatic if leader (000) character pos. 6 is 'a' or 't' AND 008 char. Pos. 33 contains one of : 0, 1, c, d, e, f, h, i, j, m, p, s, u.
Published maps are also considered literary works.  If 300 field contains 'map' and not other test words, the work is considered literary.
Unpublished maps may be artistic works or engravings, but the same rules apply to unpublished artistic and literary works, so we can still use the literary rule for these maps.
Music if leader (000) character position 6 contains 'c' or 'd'.
Serial (literary work) if leader (000) character position 7 contains 's'.
Note: Manuscript and music collection level records are automatically given "undetermined" status, because there may be a range of formats, dates and many rights holders.
Manuscript collection:  000/06 = t and 000/07 = c
Music collection:  000/06 = c or d and 000/07 = c


Photograph if 300$a contains 'photograph' or 'negative' or 'slide or 'transparency' or 'contact sheet' or 'contact print'; OR 300$b contains 'albumen' (& no other words) e.g. an14484190-20 OR 245 $h contains 'transparency' OR 691 $v contains 'photograph'.

Sound recording

Sound recording if leader (000) character position 6 contains an 'i' or 'j' or 'oral trc' or 'oral deb' in holdings 852 field.

Date Rules

Use 008 field, character positions 07-10 (date one) and 008/11-14 (date two) to determine creation/publication dates.

008 character position 06 - Type of date/Publication status

b - No dates given; B.C. date involved: out of copyright!
c - Continuing resource currently published: undetermined
d - Continuing resource ceased publication: use 008/11-14 as creation/publication year
e - Detailed date: use 008/07-10 as creation/publication year
i - Inclusive dates of collection: use 008/11-14 as creation/publication year
k - Range of years of bulk of collection: undetermined (collection)
m - Multiple dates: use 008/11-14 as creation/publication year
n - Dates unknown: undetermined (no date available)
p - Date of distribution/release/issue and production/recording session when different: use 008/11-14 as creation/original publication date and 008/07-10 as later edition date
q - Questionable date: use 008/11-14 as creation/publication year (latest date)
r - Reprint/reissue date and original date: use 008/11-14 as creation/publication year (original date) and 008/07-10 as published edition date
s - Single known date/probable date: use 008/07-10 as creation/publication date
t - Publication date and copyright date: use 008/11-14 as creation date
u - Continuing resource status unknown: uncertain
| - No attempt to code: undetermined
Uncertain date:
For any of the above where using 008/07-10 or 008/11-14 as date, if 008/07-14 contain "u", date is uncertain. If an expected date in 008/11-14 is missing (blank), use the date in 008/07-10, but if both are blank (unlikely), date is uncertain.

Identify Government Owned Works Rule

A work falls under government copyright if it has government codes (as shown below) in character positions 15-17 and position 28 of the 008 field.

position 15-17

position 28

at - Australia (general)
qea - Queensland
xna - NSW
aca - Australian Capital Territory
vra - Victoria
tma - Tasmania
xra - South Australia
wea - Western Australia
xoa - Northern Territory

a - Autonomous or semi-autonomous
c - Multilocal
f - Federal/national
i - International intergovernmental
l - Local
m - Multistate
o - Government publication - level undetermined
s - State, provincial, territorial, dependent, etc

Determine life dates rule

Material type - artistic work

Material type - engraving

Material type - literary, dramatic or musical

Material type - photograph

Material type - sound recording

Published edition rule

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  1. Anonymous

       i mant to copy few topic from the adams book's of production and operation manaement

  2. Anonymous

    Fabulous work guys.  I notice that you have gone for the more generic 'Government copyright' rather than "Crown Copyright".  Will you be looking at defining this is greater detail down the track?