Book review: Copyright Law and Practice

Colin Golvan SC
Copyright Law and Practice
The Federation Press, Sydney, 2007
248 pages (paperback)
ISBN 9781862876545
RRP $49.95

Copyright Law and Practice is written by a leader in the field of copyright law, Colin Golvan SC, and is focused on specific and practical examples of copyright law. It is divided into clear, simple to follow parts, with a natural flow from information about general copyright protection through to infringement and a consideration of the defences to, and possible remedies for, copyright infringement.

This book makes you stop and think about how copyright law applies to everyday life. An excellent example of this is Golvan’s practical consideration of the protection of copyright in published works and the fact that copyright does not protect ideas but rather it protects the way the ideas are expressed. Golvan looks at the recent court case brought against the authors of The Da Vinci Code (the book, not the film). Here allegations of copyright infringement were made by the authors of a non-fiction book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, in relation to the use of ideas and expressions from their original work. Golvan explains that everyday use of ideas “cannot be protected but how those facts, themes and ideas are put together …can be(1).”

Copyright Law and Practice commences with a basic review of copyright law before progressing to a more sophisticated look at what may constitute an infringement of copyright. It is written in a contemporary, plain English style, which allows concepts to be easily understood making it a book that can be read from cover to cover with ease. It provides a clear and concise guide to the key elements of copyright law, including ownership, the court process and contracts. It employs a balanced use of current, historical and legislative change to provide an understanding as to the development of the law of copyright.

The work contains an account of recent and historical developments not only in Australia, but also in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Europe. Golvan believes it is important to understand how copyright law is dealt with internationally and to appreciate that there are general concepts in contracts dealing with copyright that are common to many jurisdictions. Thus, Golvan explains that, ”[p]roper copyright management, by its nature, requires an international perspective (though the legal analysis is invariably bound up with national laws)(2)” and he also notes that “the international nature of copyright means that there are common general concepts in contracting for the use of copyright by publishers in many jurisdictions(3).”

Golvan uses examples of the protection of Indigenous works in copyright law to provide the reader with an understanding of broader cultural issues relevant to copyright law. He uses Indigenous examples to highlight issues such as “whether contemporary copyright provides adequate or appropriate protection for the modern expression of ancient artforms(4).”

Copyright Law and Practice will serve as an authoritative and stimulating introduction for law students and for non-lawyers with an interest in copyright. It illustrates that this is an important and dynamic area of the law which has seen unprecedented growth due to the advancement of current technologies. Practising lawyers will find it a useful reference guide, whether they specialise in copyright law or in other areas of commercial law but are required from time to time to advise on aspects of copyright law. For law students and practitioners alike, this book provides a lucid account of the leading authorities and the main principles of copyright law. It enables readers to identify, follow and understand concepts through practical examples. This book offers a good and practical understanding of copyright law at both an elementary and professional level.

Louis Leventis is a solicitor with Camatta Lempens in South Australia, in their commercial and civil litigation team.


(1) Colin Golvan SC, Copyright Law and Practice, 2007, page 40

(2) Ibid, p210.

(3) Ibid, p163.

(4) Ibid, p 186.

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