Copyright and book covers in Aus

It can be easy to forget as you are diligently working away, but every book cover in the library is covered by copyright law, not just the content within the book. Often the book cover will contain an artistic work, and some may be particularly unique.

So if you are using thumbnails in a catalogue, or a blog, or on a library poster – is this breaching copyright law?

Reading through the information can be very confusing, but thankfully in August 2016 the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian Publishers Association (APA) made an agreement to cover exactly this issue, which means you can skip all the very confusing legal stuff (phew!)

Basically, if you are a library (including libraries within educational institutions) and are using the book cover of an APA member for promotional purposes, you do not need to seek permission or pay copyright fees. However, I’m still searching for a simple way to know who is a member of the APA and who isn’t…

In a statement on their website ALIA explains that the two organisations:

[A]gree that it is in everyone’s interest for libraries to be able to reproduce images of book covers to promote library programs and collections and to connect readers with books and authors, for example in library displays, posters, catalogues, bookmarks and other marketing materials, social media posts and website pages.
While libraries may already be able to rely on provisions in the Copyright Act to use copyright material for such promotional purposes, and while the Australian Publishers Association is not aware of any concerns by publishers about such uses – the Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Library and Information Association agree on the value of an environment in which libraries are free from doubt and feel confident, for promotional purposes, to reproduce the image of the cover of a book whose copyright is owned by Australian publishers.
It is the policy of the Australian Publishers Association that its members allow such use without any need for specific permission or payment.
You can also get some more detailed information on this topic in this document created by the Australian Copyright Council (which also gives great advice if you do not fall within this agreement).

2 thoughts on “Copyright and book covers in Aus

  1. “[A]gree that it is in everyone’s interest for libraries to be able to reproduce images of book covers”

    no kidding. specific apa agreements aside, for library use thumbnails should be “fair use” or “fair dealing,” depending on the country. au has fair dealing– they should just add it the list of specific things you can do already.


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