The Legal Aspects of Publishing a Book


Self-publishers should protect their copyrights. This means using proper copyright notices on published works (including the international copyright symbol ©, date of publication, and a name of copyright owner). You do not have to register any copyright in Australia.


Defamation Challenges

Publishers can be sued for publishing false and defamatory statements and, sometimes, even just embarrassing private facts about individuals. A “defamation” is generally a false statement of fact about a living individual (though it may apply to deceased individuals in certain jurisdictions and, occasionally, to corporate entities) that holds the person up to ridicule or scorn.

Privacy: Does the book disclose facts that should not be made public, including medical, financial, or other highly personal information? Be wary of disclosing personal facts. Where any such information is about to be published, consult with your lawyers to be sure you are not at risk of violating a criminal or civil statute.

Publicity Rights: Generally, the right of publicity prevents the commercial exploitation of the value of an individual’s name and likeness. This right not only protects celebrities and others whose names and appearances have real commercial value but also prevents the use of anyone’s name or likeness in advertising or trade without their permission.

Negligent Publication: An issue unique to books that provide instructions, how-to information, self-help (especially medical) and other guidance, is a claim of negligent publication. Although far less common than law suits for infringement and defamation, sometimes publishers have been surprised by claims that they are liable because people were injured following advice published in their books. See more in the PDF.

Checklist for Legal Book Issues (PDF)

Quotes and Extracts (Copyright Council) (PDF)

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Remember to send a book copy to both your State Library and the National Library after publication.

Publishers in all Australian jurisdictions are required to deposit print and electronic publications with the National Library of Australia in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968. If both formats are available, electronic is preferred.

Check the STATE (you live in) legal requirements on the Legal Deposits required when you select an ISBN and publish a book. If using a ‘self-publishers package’ or a traditional publisher, they normally take care of this but check this.

See National Library Australia.

If you also have an eBook or digital magazine published in Australia, you should send it straight to NED. Once you have deposited an electronic publication to NED (National eDeposit), your obligations for national legal deposit have been fulfilled. Yah!

Also see Cataloguing Publication Data.