helenlt on August 2nd, 2013
We’ve blogged before about the ALRC Review on copyright. Recently, the ALRC released a discussion paper that included a number of proposals for changes to copyright law that would make copyright more responsive to how we use, create and access content in the digital world. One of those proposals was the repeal of the Part VA and Part VB statutory licences for educational purposes. As many of you may know the statutory licences allow the University to use copyright material for teaching including making material available on the LMS and in course packs. The University supports this proposal because we believe that the statutory licences are not flexible enough to support the evolving and changing technological environment we teach in. The licenses have also become economically inefficient. We pay to use material under the statutory licences and we also pay when we directly licence material from publishers such as electronic journals and databases available via the Library.
Not surprisingly many publishers do not support this proposal believing that repealing the statutory licences would allow universities and other educational institutions to use copyright material for free. They believe it would be highly disadvantageous to authors. As such, some publishers are lobbying their authors to make submissions to the ALRC indicating that they do not support the proposals. Universities Australia, the peak body for Australian universities, has expressed concern that in some cases the information publishers are providing their authors is misleading.
Universities Australia has provided the following information for authors:
“As we approach the deadline for responses to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) discussion paper on Copyright and the Digital Economy, copyright collecting societies, rights holders groups and publishers have embarked on a misleading public campaign claiming that the proposed repeal of the educational statutory licences, and introduction of fair use, will result in authors not getting paid. They have encouraged authors, including those working in universities, to protest against the ALRC’s proposed reforms.
The campaign being waged by these groups contains misinformation, obscures and misrepresents the detail of the proposed reforms, and aims to spread unnecessary fear among authors about the abolition of the statutory licences. They have suggested, for example, that universities may seek to copy everything for free if the reforms were introduced.
The entire education sector (universities, schools and TAFE) and many other users groups unanimously support both the removal of the statutory licences and the introduction of a fair use regime. This has been a cornerstone of the submissions of the education sector to the ALRC. Universities pay millions of dollars to publishers for direct access to information resources through purchases and subscriptions. These copyright reforms are not about avoiding paying rights holders, but because reforms to the system would result in a fairer and more flexible copyright regime and would remove roadblocks to competing with North American universities for the best and brightest students, and facilitate our academics using innovative technologies to engage in internationally competitive research.
University staff who are unaware of the detail of what the ALRC has proposed, and the position that the universities support, could be wrongly influenced by this scare campaign to believe that they stand to be disadvantaged in some way. This is simply incorrect.
The facts are:
• Repeal of the statutory licences would not mean that authors and publishers would not be paid when their work is copied. There would still be a role for collective licensing, as there is in most other jurisdictions in the world. It would simply be more efficient and flexible than the existing statutory licences.
• Fair use would enable Australian academics to use copyright content in ways that their peers in the US and other fair use jurisdictions can. This includes using innovative technologies such as data mining and text mining that in many cases would currently infringe copyright in Australia.
• A fair use exception would put Australian universities in the same position as US universities when it came to, for example, using small amounts of copyright content in MOOCs. There is currently no exception that permits this kind of use.
• Fair use would not mean that universities could copy everything for free. It would simply mean that Australian universities would be placed in the same position as their peers in the US, Canada, Singapore and other fair use jurisdictions who can copy for educational purposes in ways that are “fair” and do not cause undue harm to rights holders.
• Far from being disadvantaged by the reforms being sought by universities, academics stand to benefit greatly from a fairer, more flexible copyright regime.
Vice-Chancellors and other senior university staff are encouraged to reinforce with researchers and others that all Australian universities are keen to see these reforms presented to government to ensure the Australian education sector is internationally competitive. As the law currently stands, the sector is placed at a comparative disadvantaged by an inflexible and inefficient educational copyright regime.”
You can read the proposals in full by downloading the Discussion Paper from the ALRC. You can also read the submissions made to the ALRC on their website. The University’s position and view is represented in the submission from Universities Australia as well as the Australian Digital Alliance and Australian Libraries Copyright Committee. At the time of writing this blog post, these two submissions were not yet available on the ALRC website. We’ll let you know as soon as they are available.
We will be providing more detail to the University community on the proposals and what they might mean for teaching, research and other University activities and business. Stay tuned to this blog.
We would welcome your feedback and comments on this issue – feel free to let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. If you have questions and concerns, you can also contact us via email or phone.
Extract from Universities Australia MEMBER UPDATE No. 33 – July 2013 (sent to Vice-Chancellors). Courtesy: Universities Australia.