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Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds MELISSA CASTAN: So intellectual property is a system to try and regulate ownership of non-tangible property. And it’s designed to give certainty to people’s rights and responsibilities regarding ideas and manifestation of those ideas. We’re trying to resolve disputes about issues like, who owns my artwork? Or if I publish an article, who owns that? Is that my property, or is it the publisher’s property? If I post a video on YouTube, does belong to YouTube, or does it belong to me the artists? So there’s lot of issues that are evolving now about the scope of intellectual property, and how issues will be resolved in these new demands. DR.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 seconds STEPHEN GRAY: The world needs intellectual property laws, particularly a world of new media, because people want to get some benefit and some return for their creations. And in the artistic world, in the inventive world, creativity is extremely important. It’s important to business. It’s incredibly important in the 21st century world. If you have created a piece of music, for example, or you’ve written a book, or you’ve invented something, then most likely, you want to get some sort of return. People spend years and years of their lives, and a great deal of money invested in creating works of intellectual property. And it’s only natural that you would expect some kind of a benefit out of that.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 seconds You’ve got to balance that, of course. Intellectual property law has to strike a balance between the interests of the creator of the work, and the interests of the rest of the world, including competitors who might like to create something similar, or compete. In Australia, there are four main statutory regimes for intellectual property. And that applies in other common law countries as well, and many other countries around the world. So firstly, there’s copyright, which only protects artistic works, creative works. Then there’s the Designs Act, designs registration that protects generally industrial type designs. Then there’s patents. And that’s designed to protect inventions. So if you invent something, then you would seek patent protection for it.

Skip to 2 minutes and 5 seconds And finally, the [INAUDIBLE] regime of trademarks law, which has the goal of protecting people’s business trademarks, the value of those sort of things, the commercial value. Intellectual property protection is a very traditionally Western oriented kind of law. I guess it developed out of the European Enlightenment, or around the same time at least, the 19th century set of laws. It was designed very much to protect the works of individuals who had created something. And it was based upon this notion that you have created something that’s original when you write a novel, or whatever it is.

Skip to 2 minutes and 49 seconds Now that may suit Western norms quite well in some ways, although you might argue that the 21st century is actually different in its treatment of creative works, the ease with which we can disseminate everything all around the world in the blink of an eye, or that the advent of the internet, or of computer technology, has really changed the nature of intellectual property. But it’s also interesting and important to bear in mind that other cultures outside the West may see cultural heritage in very different ways. And so we’ve seen resistance, I guess, in many countries to imposition of these standard forms of intellectual property protection based on Western norms.

Skip to 3 minutes and 35 seconds So in Australia, indigenous people have argued that actually they own works collectively. And they own works through membership of a clan that exists from sort of time immemorial. So that’s a very different way of looking at intellectual property. And it’s been a real challenge for Western loyalists to try to understand and accommodate those very different ways of seeing the world within, and alongside, the Western traditional framework.

Introduction to intellectual property law

Watch Melissa (Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law & Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law) and Stephen (Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law) talk about intellectual property law, its function and how it seeks to organise, control and regulate a range of creative, inventive and innovative expression.

It’s important for you to know that the parliament in your home country will have likely set out what the law is in each of these areas through statutory law and regulation. You will need to look up and find these laws to apply the knowledge we are about to explain to your local area, or jurisdiction. You can also get in contact with your country’s government regulator or registration department to check what are the intellectual property laws that apply to you.

Talking point

Within the Comments, consider sharing with other learners your thoughts on the following question:

Do you believe that, on the whole, intellectual property law has struck the right balance of protecting private property rights of creators and the achieving the collective good of society?

Don’t forget to contribute to the discussion by reviewing the comments made by other learners, making sure you provide constructive feedback and commentary. Remember you can also ‘like’ comments or follow other learners throughout the course.

Go to Downloads for a link to Intellectual property law, a document that provides more detail on copyright, trademarks, patents, confidentiality agreements and contracts.

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Law for Non-Lawyers: Introduction to Law

Monash University