Outdated Compulsory Licensing Means Australian Schools Must Pay Millions To Use Free Internet Materials
from the it's-broken,-let's-fix-it dept
Recently we wrote about how copyright rules designed for an analog age were causing problems when transposed without modification to the digital world. Here's another example, this time from Australia, where the Brisbane Times' site reports on an increasingly difficult situation in education as a result of outdated copyright approaches:
Schools spend almost [AU]$56 million [US$59 million] a year under a compulsory licence to copy material such as books and journals without permission from the copyright owner. But an unintended consequence of the licence means schools also pay millions for internet material that the website owners never intended to charge for
The problem is that there are strict rules that schools must follow when teachers duplicate material -- rules that were designed for a world where practically every page copied had to be paid for. However, the inflexibilities of the scheme mean that these are now being applied even when teachers print or save freely-available materials from the Internet, or ask students to do the same for homework.
A "best estimate" for the scale of the problem is around $8 million, and as the Internet becomes an increasingly important resource for schools, things are only going to get worse:
These costs were likely to increase as the national broadband network was rolled out and might ''eventually become prohibitive'', [the National Copyright Unit's director] said.
Fortunately, the Australian Law Reform Commission is holding an inquiry into copyright and the digital economy currently, so there is hope that its recommendations will include a radical overhaul of the compulsory licensing system for schools. Given copyright's three-hundred-year-old machinery, it's unlikely to be the only area that requires such action.