Reading time: 3 minutes

The ease of self-publication coupled with the accessibility of information online has shifted the onus onto writers to understand legal issues such as defamation and copyright. Below, we examine legal issues surrounding the world of online publishing and self-publication.

Copyright Online

Online publishing, where writers often produce content and publish for free, has provided another avenue for copyright infringers. As the writer, if you have quoted from another text, it is a good idea to obtain consent from the original author. Be aware that copyright ends 70 years after the author has died, at which point the work enters the public domain and can be used without consent.

Copyright is automatic in Australia. However, it may be the case for self-published authors that they find someone has infringed their work online. It is often costly and difficult to enforce your rights with an online infringer, and unless the infringers have benefitted unjustly, it is typically impractical to pursue legal action. Furthermore, some writers choose to support others using their characters or settings for their work as long as it is not for commercial gain. For example, fanfiction has proliferated over the last decade, and many authors will support this type of work.

Defamation

As online self-publication and ebooks are now common among writers, defamation has become the responsibility of the writer. Without a large publishing house reviewing your work, it can be easy to inadvertently defame an individual or a brand in your creative work. Anything that falsely hurts a person or company’s reputation can be construed as defamation, from blatant lies to false representations. Generally, material that is printed is permanent and open to an action from the defamed individual. Defamation law is complex, and it is best to speak to a lawyer if you are concerned about possibly publishing defamatory material.

Memoirs and Privacy Law

There is still no law in Australia that specifically addresses invasions of privacy. However, this may soon change. The NSW State Parliament’s Law and Justice Committee recommended in March that the State should create a new tort that allows individuals to sue for damages if their privacy had been invaded intentionally or recklessly. 

This may be relevant for authors who write memoirs in particular, as personal experiences involve other people who may not have wanted that experience publicised. At the moment, a response to the committee’s recommendation is not due until September. It’s worth noting, however, that claims for invasions of privacy can still be pursued through a combination of current civil and criminal laws, e.g. breach of confidence.

Key Takeaways

If you are a self-published author or are considering publishing your work online, it is useful to bear in mind the possibilities of defamation, invasion of privacy and copyright infringement. Whether intentional or accidental, that may appear in your work. Remember that you own the copyright in your work and that you can enforce these rights against infringers. Unsure about your legal obligations as a self-publisher? Get in touch with our IP lawyers on 1300 544 755.

Webinars

Redundancies and Restructuring: Understanding Your Employer Obligations

Thursday 7 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
If you plan on making a role redundant, it is crucial that you understand your employer obligations. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Sponsor Foreign Workers For Your Tech Business

Wednesday 13 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Need web3 talent for your tech business? Consider sponsoring workers from overseas. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Advertising 101: Social Media, Influencers and the Law

Thursday 21 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Learn how to promote your business on social media without breaking the law. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Structuring for Certainty in Uncertain Times

Tuesday 26 July | 12:00 - 12:45pm

Online
Learn how to structure to weather storm and ensure you can take advantage of the “green shoots” opportunities arising on the other side of a recession.
Register Now

Playing for the Prize: How to Run Trade Promotions

Thursday 28 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Running a promotion with a prize? Your business has specific trade promotion obligations. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Web3 Essentials: Understanding SAFT Agreements

Tuesday 2 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Learn how SAFT Agreements can help your Web3 business when raising capital. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

Understanding Your Annual Franchise Update Obligations

Wednesday 3 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Franchisors must meet annual reporting obligations each October. Understand your legal requirements by registering for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Legal Essentials for Product Manufacturers

Thursday 11 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
As a product manufacturer, do you know your legal obligations if there is a product recall? Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards