Copyright guards look set to stay

Anna Uren
Parramatta High School

The recommendation to scrap statutory licences has been dropped in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s final report into copyright law reform.

Statutory licences, negotiated by the Copyright Advisory Group on behalf of the entire education sector, at a cost of about $17 per student per year, cover the use of paper and digital material in teaching and learning. Creators of the material receive payment and students can access the full range of resource material that may support their learning.

The Commission included in its discussion paper a recommendation to repeal of statutory licences despite it not having been included in the terms of reference, nor mentioned in the originally released issues paper. Teaching organisations, including the Australian Education Union, reacted strongly against the recommendation.

The Commission’s final report, Copyright and the Digital Economy (ALRC Report 122) does propose changing the statutory licences so they are more flexible for the digital age. One example cited by the Commission was that labour-intensive surveys should no longer be necessary as part of the licence arrangements, considering new electronic monitoring technologies are available. This would actually see the copyright burden significantly decreased for teachers should such a change be implemented.

The report was originally requested by the previous Labor government. New Attorney-General Senator George Brandis has not indicated whether the Coalition Government will act on the recommendations of the Commission any time soon. For the time being, at least, the status quo looks set to prevail.