Copyright in written work is facing unprecedented challenges in the digital era. The changing face of copyright requires a re-evaluation of the existing norms and theories of copyright as an inanimate phenomenon that is reliant on humans for its adaptations. This article examines authors’ responses to these developments in the context of the philosophical theories underpinning copyright law, current Australian legislative and judicial considerations, and the impact of e-publishing on traditional perceptions of copyright protection. In particular, the article incorporates findings from a research study conducted with Australian authors on their perceptions of the value and meaning of copyright and how these viewpoints affect their creative practice, as well as their ability to deal with digital copyright challenges and publishing opportunities. In taking cognisance of these research results and considering the concurrent evolution of digital copyright models, this article proposes that there is a need to address the tension exhibited between the utilitarian approach, characteristic of Australian copyright law, and the natural rights views of authors, to create a sustainable balance.

2013 HERDC submission. FoR codes: 180115, 180119