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Recent changes to copyright

Recent amendments to the Copyright Act 1968

In 2017 the Australian government introduced important changes to our copyright in the form of the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Act 2017. The Act introduced changes in four areas. They are:

  • Simplification of the statutory licence for education, to make it more efficient and effective for both rights holders and educational institutions (ss113N-113U) - the changes combine the two previous statutory education licences (Part VA and Part VB) in a single, simpler licence (s113P) that keeps the intention but removes many of the bureaucratic details. See Teaching Support for more details about how this applies to TUA.
  • Amendments to strengthen the rights of Australians with a disability to create and use accessible versions of copyright works – these are a new fair dealing for disability access (s113F) and a new exception for institutions assisting people with a disability (s113E). Both of these exceptions improve on the previous accessibility provisions by applying equally to any material you want to use (be it book, film, or audio recording), to any use you want to make (be it copying, adapting or uploading to the cloud) and to people with any disability (be it vision, hearing, intellectual, physical or even temporary).
  • A new exception for preservation of library and archive collections (s113H) – this replaced the previous complex and incomplete exceptions and removed (almost) all restrictions on preservation activities by cultural institutions, with no limits on number, format or location of copies. The only limit is that institutions must check if the material is commercially available in the format they require. However, as works are rarely made commercially available in preservation formats (eg a proprietary ebook format is not equivalent to open document format), this should not be a significant impediment in most cases;
  • Changes to the copyright term provisions (duration) to end the antiquated concept of perpetual copyright for unpublished works, and to set a fixed copyright term for works whose authors are unknown – all materials will now have a standard term of either life of the author plus 70 years (works) or 70 years from creation (subject matter other than works) regardless of whether they are published or not. The main exception to this rule will be works for which the author cannot be identified, which will have a term of 70 years from when they were made public, or 70 years from creation if they have not been made public.

Source: Australian Libraries Copyright Committee (ALCC). (2018). Disability and Other Measures Act fact sheets. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence.

Safe Harbour Expansion

This amendment took effect on 29 December 2018. The "safe harbour scheme" which gives organisations additional legal protections from liability for copyright infringing activities on their network and services under certain conditions has been extended to organisations including schools, universities and disability organisations.

You can read more about it in the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee's Guide for Libraries and Archives.

Site-Blocking Legislation - Section 115A of the Copyright Act

This amendment took effect on 11 December 2018. Section 115A enables the Federal Court to grant an injunction requiring a service provider to take reasonable steps to block access to online locations which infringe copyright and have the primary purpose of infringing copyright or facilitating the infringement of copyright.

You can read more about it in the Australian Copyright Council's updated information sheets: