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.


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.

COVID-19 Business Survey
LegalVision is conducting a survey on the impact of COVID-19 for businesses across Australia. The survey takes 2 minutes to complete and all responses are anonymous. We would appreciate your input. Take the survey now.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.

The majority of our clients are LVConnect members. By becoming a member, you can stay ahead of legal issues while staying on top of costs. For just $199 per month, membership unlocks unlimited lawyer consultations, faster turnaround times, free legal templates and members-only discounts.

Learn more about LVConnect

Dhanu Eliezer
Need Legal Help? Get a Free Fixed-Fee Quote

If you would like to receive a free fixed-fee quote or get in touch with our team, fill out the form below.

  • By submitting this form, you agree to receive emails from LegalVision and can unsubscribe at any time. See our full Privacy Policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Our Awards
  • 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn
  • 2019 NewLaw Firm of the Year - Australian Law Awards 2019 NewLaw Firm of the Year - Australian Law Awards
  • 2020 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500 2020 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards
  • Most Innovative Law Firm - 2019 Australasian Lawyer 2019 Most Innovative Firm - Australasian Lawyer
Privacy Policy Snapshot

We collect and store information about you. Let us explain why we do this.

What information do you collect?

We collect a range of data about you, including your contact details, legal issues and data on how you use our website.

How do you collect information?

We collect information over the phone, by email and through our website.

What do you do with this information?

We store and use your information to deliver you better legal services. This mostly involves communicating with you, marketing to you and occasionally sharing your information with our partners.

How do I contact you?

You can always see what data you’ve stored with us.

Questions, comments or complaints? Reach out on 1300 544 755 or email us at

View Privacy Policy