Author: Government recordkeeping


On 22 March 2017, the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill was passed by the Australian Parliament. Most amendments came into effect in December 2017 and those amendments regarding unpublished works will take effect on the 1 January 2019.

The Amendment Bill introduced a number of important changes to provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 to streamline access to copyright material for persons with print disabilities and simplify educational statutory licenses. Most significantly for archives, libraries and government record-keepers, the Act introduces preservation, and research and administrative use exceptions. It also puts an end to perpetual copyright for unpublished works. 

Disability access provisions

The definition of ‘persons with a disability’ has been amended. It now includes ‘persons with a disability that causes difficulty reading, viewing, hearing or comprehending copyright material’ (this definition is the same as the Disability Discrimination Act, 1992).

The Act introduces new fair dealing exceptions for access to copyright material for individuals with a disability. This includes making changes to the format of records and enlarging graphics and text. This enhances Australia’s response to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (The Marrakesh Treaty).

Exceptions for libraries and archives

The recent amendments provide simplified provisions which will enable libraries and archives to make multiple copies of copyright material for preservation purposes. The statutory exceptions permit electronic copies (for example digital records of digitised paper records) to be accessed by the public for research purposes without infringing copyright as long as libraries and archives take ‘reasonable steps to ensure that a person who accesses the preservation copy…does not infringe copyright’.  These bodies are also permitted to use copyright material that they hold in original form, for the purposes of carrying out research and for administrative purposes directly related to the care or control of the collection. These administrative purposes include creating back-up copies, record keeping and use for training purposes.

Ending perpetual copyright

The standard for private copyright works (which can include public records) first ‘made public’ during the creator’s lifetime will be the life of the creator plus 70 years. If the work was never ‘made public’ before 1 January 2019, then this period also applies. For works first 'made public' after the author has died, but before the 1 January 2019 the copyright duration is the date of first publication plus 70 years. 

The amendments enable anonymous works which were never made public to fall into the public domain from 70 years after the date they were first made. If the work record is made public after 1 January 2019 and within 50 years of its making, a protection period will commence when the record was first made public plus 70 years.  

What the changes mean for collections 

The amended copyright duration for Crown copyright records (such as the ones held in PROV's collection or by other State and National Archives) will be the date made plus 50 years – regardless of whether the work is made public or not.

A general overview of the changes can be found on the Copyright Council website. For further reading on copyright issues and the recent amendment bill visit:


Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples