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  2. Aboriginal Art
  3. Protecting Australian Indigenous art
  4. Considerations for teaching and learning
  5. Reproducing or displaying Aboriginal artworks
  6. Permission
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In general, it is most unlikely that students would be the assigned or licensed holders of copyright in a work by an Aboriginal artist. This means that students wishing to reproduce works by Aboriginal artists might be required to seek permission from the copyright holders if the purpose of the reproduction is other than for the purposes of research and study.

Increasingly, student projects involve the scanning or photocopying of images that are reproduced in paper form as information/research reports. Computer-based technologies are also being increasingly used to create products (eg multimedia presentations, webpages) that are published in electronic form.

In general, it is safe to say that such reports may be created for restricted (ie personal or classroom) use. Schools are covered by a special agreement that provides for reasonable use of images in this restricted way. However, art reproductions may not be made public (published) without the permission of the relevant copyright holders. Students who distribute paper-based reproductions to an audience beyond the school, or who place reproductions on an electronic network, are probably in breach of copyright law unless they have first obtained permission for such use. (Teachers might reinforce that the same principle applies to the direct quotation and re-publication of written source material.)

Some people may be inclined to take the view that Aboriginal artists will support educational activity involving the exploration of the artists’ work. However, teachers and students should never presume that approval will be given. It is a matter of respect and of legal principle to seek permission before reproducing and publishing any element of an artist’s work.

It may be that students are able to consult with one another in order to develop a group approach in obtaining artists’ approvals. This might be possible where a number of students (or the whole class) are studying the work of a particular artist. In any case, students’ requests should be written and should clearly state:

  • the title of the work(s) to be reproduced
  • the purpose for using the work(s)
  • the publication in which the reproduction is to appear (with an indication as to the form of publication, eg paper-based, electronic)
  • the number of copies that will be published
  • any details that might affect the integrity of the work (eg whether it will be cropped or overwritten in any way; reproduced in black and white or in colour).

Students’ requests should also seek the artist’s terms of use, so that the artist may specify the form of acknowledgement that should accompany the reproduction and any payment required.

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