This chapter looks at one of the key notions within copyright law, namely the idea of the ‘author’. As we will see, while authorship carries with it certain consequences, including the right to first ownership of copyright, there are a number of exceptions to this general rule. This chapter will also look at the nature and duration of the rights that are given to the copyright owner.
‘Authorship’ and first ownership
One of the notable differences between common law copyright systems, such as those in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada, and the droit d'auteur systems of many European countries concerns the prominence given to the ‘author’ as creator of copyright works. Despite this, the author has long played a pivotal role in common law copyright systems. It has also been suggested that the modern idea of the author was effectively invented by British publishing houses in the eighteenth century in their attempt to have the courts recognise perpetual copyright protection. The key role given to the author in Australian copyright law is reflected in the fact that copyright law uses the author as the focus or fulcrum point for many rules. For example, the period of protection given to a copyright work is based on the life of the author. In turn, the fact that an author is connected to Australia helps determine whether the copyright work qualifies for protection, and the moral rights associated with a copyright work attach to the author. Perhaps most importantly, the author is treated as the first owner of copyright in a work.