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Reflections on Authorship and the Meaning of a “Work” in Australian and Singapore Copyright Law

Sam Ricketson

(2012) 24 SAcLJ 792

While other articles in this special issue discuss changing standards of originality in copyright law, this article deals with a number of further issues that are closely related, and which have great practical implications in both the traditional print and online environments. It begins with a consideration of the concept of authorship and the meaning of a “work”, and how these matters affect one’s understanding of the standard that is to be applied when considering the question of copyright subsistence. National and international approaches are considered, particularly with reference to the provisions of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and recent Australian decisions in which the link between authors and their works has been stressed. The following issues are then discussed: whether there is a quantum requirement for the purposes of determining that something is a “work” in the first place; the activities that are to be included within the scope of the term “authorship”; whether there are meaningful boundaries to be drawn between different species of works, in particular, literary and artistic works; the degree to which human involvement is necessary for the purposes of showing that a work is one of authorship; and the problems of multiple authors, particularly in the online environment.