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Copyright, Creators and Collecting Institutions: 2012 Update

On 23 August 2012, the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Media and Communications Law (CMCL) presented an update on their research program, Cultural Collections, Creators and Copyright: Museums, Galleries, Libraries and Archives and Australia’s Digital Heritage.

Hosted by Professor Andrew Kenyon, Joint-Director of the CMCL, the session saw three speakers address legal and practical issues for collecting institutions such as copyright exceptions and flexibility, licensing models and the New Zealand experience with online collections. Abigail Belfrage and Matt Gardiner (your faithful authors) attended on behalf of PROV and here’s what we found to be especially interesting.

Susan Corbett, Victoria University of Wellington
Susan spoke about her research into copyright law and its application in New Zealand in relation to museums, libraries and archives. Here are some findings from her research, which included interviews with staff from collecting institutions:

  • Archives exceptions in copyright law apply to libraries and archives but not museums
  • s51A of the Copyright Act 1968, relating to reproducing and communicating works for preservation and other purposes, permits only a single copy to be made of an item, and for preservation purposes only

The following scenarios are the most common in New Zealand:

  • staff find copyright law, including exceptions provided for archives and libraries, so difficult to interpret and apply that it is often ignored in practice
  • organisations are also risk-averse regarding making digitised material available on their websites without permission from copyright holders; digitised material is often only posted online with permission
  • many orphan works remain undigitised and/or unavailable online

Susan’s recommendations are to propose some changes to copyright legislation regarding exceptions, to better support the work of collecting institutions, including:

  • explicitly refer to museums and galleries in the Act
  • do not limit exceptions to not-for-profit organisations
  • allow for multiple digital copies to be made by organisations

Dr Emily Hudson, University of Oxford
Dr Hudson spoke about her research into copyright law, comparing legislation in US and Canada. Findings included:

  • There is a better knowledge of copyright exceptions in the US
  • There are less severe legal consequences for copyright breaches in the US

She suggested the need for guidance from government regarding the use of flexibility inherent in the current exceptions stated in Australian copyright legislation. Dr Hudson recommended that Section 200ab, regarding the use of works and other subject matter for certain purposes, be repealed and that ‘fair use’ be introduced in its place, similar to s107 of the US legislation.

Robin Wright, Swinburne University of Technology
Robin’s presentation focused on copyright and an ethical licensing model. She explored the ability of institutions to make digitised material available online and the impact of copyright laws on achieving this.

In proposing a solution the following requirements were identifed:

  • A standard / model license agreement
  • Institutions need to be able to operate in a digital environment beyond the existing exceptions
  • Protection of rights is important
  • A trustworthy mechanism is required


Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitisation