Ian McDonald

MA (HONS), LLB, DIP. ED. Special Counsel

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Ian has been a Special Counsel with the firm since April 2011. Prior to joining Simpsons, Ian was the principal of a boutique copyright law firm and before that worked for 17 years specialising in copyright at the Australian Copyright Council. He also specialises in defamation (particularly pre-publication advice), privacy issues and legal issues for museum and gallery collections.

He is a well-known and popular speaker and writer on copyright and moral rights and on legal issues for museums and galleries. For some seven years, Ian lectured in “Cultural Property, Ethics and Law” in the Master of Art Administration at the University of New South Wales Art & Design covering – among other things – topics as diverse as museum documentation, provenance, sedition, privacy, defamation, obscenity, censorship and governance issues relating to museums and galleries.


Ian is one of Australia’s leading copyright lawyers and has been recommended in the international legal review guide Legal 500.

Client Base

Ian principally advises Commonwealth and State galleries and museums as well as Australian publishers, graphic designers, photographers, artists and collecting societies. He also advises non-profit and commercial clients.

Representative Work

Ian’s core areas of practice are copyright, defamation, privacy, contract and confidential information. Representative work includes advising.

National peak industry organisations on copyright policy (including submissions for copyright reform) as well as licensing and infringement issues.

National and international photographers, artists and graphic designers on copyright infringement, passing off and misleading and deceptive conduct issues.

Australian museums and galleries on high-value acquisitions (including due diligence reports) and loan and acquisition documentation.

In addition, for museums and galleries, representative work includes the drafting and negotiation of collection documentation and assessment of provenance issues, including under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act.

An Australian company with a global portfolio of well-known intellectual property it has been exclusively licensed to manage in relation to copyright and trade mark asset management as well as extensive high-value domestic and international licensing and infringement matters.

Businesses and other organisations in relation to website terms and conditions and terms of sale for online transactions.

Publishers and authors on defamation issues.

Other Experience

Ian was editor of the Copyright Society of Australia’s journal, Copyright Reporter, between 2009 and 2012. He more recently edited “Collections Law”, a free online resource principally written by Shane Simpson with input from people working in museums and galleries, and designed to give people in these sectors reliable legal information on the issues they are most likely to face in their day-to-day work.

Since joining Simpsons, Ian has also acted as a volunteer lawyer with the Arts Law Centre of Australia advising people in the arts and entertainment industries in need of legal advice on a pro bono basis.

Ian began his legal career as the researcher assisting judges in the Common Law Division of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, covering areas as diverse as criminal law, admiralty, defamation and general contract disputes.

In addition to his legal qualifications, Ian has a Masters degree in English literature and, prior to studying law, worked in music and theatre.

Sample Papers and Publications

User-Generated Content: a practical guide; New Technologies for Education: copyright issues; Technology, Contracts & Paracopyright (with Libby Baulch); Music & Copyright: a practical guide; Churches & Copyright (with Libby Baulch); Architects & Copyright; Educational Institutions: Text & Images; Educational Institutions: digital & AV resources; Community Arts & Copyright, “Special case” Exception: education, libraries, collections; Libraries: managing licences for Digital Resources; Protecting Indigenous Intellectual Property: a discussion paper; and Photographers & Copyright, (published by the Copyright Council);

Copyright in the New Communications Environment; and A Comparative Study of Library Provisions (for the Centre for Copyright Studies);

“Some thoughts on orphan works”; “Creative Commons: just say CC?”; “When is an exception not an exception? Two dimensional reproductions of public art”; and “Current and emerging issues for the visual arts” (published in Copyright Reporter),

Hot Topics: Copyright (for the Legal Information Access Centre, State Library of New South Wales) “What qualifies as a signature?” (Incite); “Some thoughts on the Creative Commons licences” (NAVA); “Using music in films” (Off the Air); “Cross fertilisation or cultural imperialism?” (Sounds Australian); “Reading the news: copyright, music and the internet” (Sounds Australian); “Bailey’s, bottles and bills … the parallel importation of labels and packaging” (IP Forum); “Internet crime: copyright infringement” (Australian Institute of Criminology)

Ian also contributed to: Visual Arts Industry Guidelines Research Project: Copyright and Moral rights for Visual and Craft Artists (NAVA); Practical Forms & Precedents NSW (LBC Information Services); and Australian Legal Dictionary (Butterworths).