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  5. Before you make use of Aboriginal art: a checklist
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Before you make use of Aboriginal art: a checklist

Consider your purpose. If you are planning any kind of reproduction that may be published or displayed beyond your classroom, follow the procedure below.

  • Identify the owner(s) of the copyright - the artist(s) and (if relevant) the community.
  • Contact the copyright owner(s) in writing, explaining your purpose and requesting permission (refer to 'Permission').
  • If you receive permission, you must use the image, or part of the image, only within the terms that have been agreed. Any other use will require further written approval.
  • Do not display or publish any reproduction until you have received written permission to do so, even if you have received an indication, by telephone, that permission will be given.

If you are planning to adapt an existing image, or element from that image, follow the procedure below.

  • Consider your planned adaptation. If there is any chance that after you make your changes, the image/element will still be recognisable as having come from another artwork, you must seek the copyright owner’s permission for use. Follow the steps outlined above.
  • If you have not adapted in a way that is recognisable, consider the elements of your planned adaptation. Are there elements that might belong to a community, even if the law does not regard them as an individual’s legal property? Such elements might include significant figures/totems from Dreaming stories (eg those represented in rock art, or designs associated with body painting, sand drawing, clothing, craft, decoration). If you believe that an element may be the cultural property of a group of people, you should seek to identify those people and obtain their permission to display or publish your adaptation. If you are in any doubt as to whether you have free rights to a design element, you should try to identify the source of the design and make contact with the relevant people.
  • Consider the stylistic quality of your planned adaptation. Is it possible that you are misrepresenting yourself (eg as an Indigenous Australian; as a person from a particular region or language group)? Make a judgement as to whether your persona as an artist might be hurtful to others, or be seen to be culturally arrogant.

Advice on copyright, legal issues and payment can be obtained from the following sources:

  • Arts Law Centre of Australia, The Gunnery, 43-51 Cowper Wharf Rd,
    Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
    phone 1800 221 457, 9356 2566, fax (02) 9358 6475, email artslaw@artslaw.com.au
  • Australian Copyright Council, 245 Chalmers St, Redfern NSW 2016
    phone (02) 9318 1788, website http://www.copyright.org.au
  • Copyright Agency Limited, Level 15, 233 Castlereagh Street Sydney NSW 2000
    phone (02) 9394 7600, fax (02) 9394 7601, website http://www.copyright.com.au
    phone (02) 9368 0933, fax (02) 9368 0899, website www.viscopy.com, email info@viscopy.com
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Before you make use of Aboriginal art: a checklist