Unlocking our collections

Copyright reform will allow libraries to make more of their collections available for use.

Legislative reform was top of the agenda when NSLA’s Copyright group met in Canberra this month. Jessica Coates, Executive Officer of the Australian Digital Alliance and Copyright Law and Policy Advisor to the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee, joined the meeting to discuss the impact of the introduction of the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Act 2017, and other areas slated for consultation.

Significant changes to the copyright term provisions will come into effect until 1 January 2019. These amendments will remove perpetual copyright for unpublished works and introduced a standard copyright term: life of the author plus 70 years, or 70 years from the creation date. Unknown authors (orphan works) will see a 70-year duration apply, based on either the creation date or when they were made public.

Many of the Act’s amendments came into force on 22 December 2017, including:

  • the new fair dealing for disability access and exception for institutions assisting people with a disability, which enable Australia to meet  its obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty
  • amending preservation copying, subject to a commercial availability test, to remove restrictions on the number of copies that can be made
  • a new statutory licence for education to provide a simpler more flexible licence regime, which will allow, for example, material to be included in online examinations.

Janice van de Velde, Convenor of NSLA’s Copyright group and Copyright Officer at State Library Victoria, said that NSLA libraries have been advocating for these reforms for a long time.

"Our collections are meant to be used, not locked away," she said, "so, we are enormously pleased that from 1 January 2019 hundreds of thousands of collection items will enter the public domain.

"The amendments to the Copyright Act will benefit all Australians – it will give them unfettered access to their social documentary history, encourage learning, and promote creativity, innovation and new knowledge."

The amendments will, of course, also have resourcing impacts on NSLA libraries. "We will need to ensure that staff and the public are aware of these changes, and what they mean, and revise many, many catalogue records," said Janice. "Over the coming months the Copyright group will scope out a process to implement these changes well before 1 January 2019."

2018 is shaping up to be another big year for copyright reform. In January, the Copyright group provided input into NSLA’s submission to the Inquiry into the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill. While NSLA libraries have been proactive in this area, developing an industry standard approach and procedures for take down, the proposed expansion of safe harbours will clarify legal requirements and recognise the vital service libraries provide the Australian public through free access to technology, the internet and a wealth of digital content. NSLA also plans to support submissions to future consultations flagged by the Federal Government for 2018, including flexible exceptions, orphan works and contracting out.