Australian Librarians Start 'Cooking For Copyright' Campaign To Change Law For Unpublished Works
from the grilled-fair-use dept
This history of copyright in the United States is long and filled with changes, mostly in the direction of greater and longer protection. There are a few instances that go the opposite way, however, and one of them is the way that unpublished works are protected by copyright restrictions. In the early days of America, a work that an author had not chosen to publicly publish was actually afforded perpetual copyright under common law rights up until the author either published the work or registered it for statutory copyright protection. In fact, the earliest copyright case to go before the Supreme Court in part dealt with unpublished works. Later, in the early 1900s, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled on a case that decided that unpublished works are only afforded the same copyright term and length as registered or published works. It was a good result, in my view, as I believe the entire point of copyright is to grant control in order to spur creation and publication for public consumption. Granting copyrights to unpublished works breaks the give/take nature of copyright law. The 1976 Copyright Act finally made it official that unpublished works do not get perpetual copyright (though, it expanded copyright in almost every other way possible).
In Australia, the law never made the transition regarding unpublished works, and now a group of librarians is pulling an online stunt in order to get the public interested in making that change.
Librarians across Australia are cooking up a campaign to change the country’s copyright laws. However, those involved want people to bake biscuits and cakes rather than picket Parliament.
Social media users are being encouraged to cook a vintage recipe and share a photo of the result. The aim is to encourage the Attorney-General to look at changing the law so that unpublished works are treated the same way as published ones. Executive director of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) Sue McKerracher said the nation had “some rather strange copyright laws”.
Strange may be a bit unfair. Antiquated is probably more accurate. In Australia, unpublished works are offered perpetual copyright, so long as they remain unpublished. Published works get the life-plus-70-years deal that we’re familiar with. The librarians goal in this is to be able to offer more educational and historical materials to students.
“All we’d like to do is just change it so that unpublished works come under the same terms as published works,” Ms McKerracher told 774 ABC Melbourne’s Red Symons. “That way, all of the wonderful materials in libraries, galleries, historical societies and museums could be released to students, researchers and historians.”
Ms McKerracher said changing the law would allow historians access to soldiers’ diaries from World War I, for example.
Also included under current protections would be historical recipes, hence the cooking awareness campaign. The librarians group went so far as to dig up some recipes from historical figures’ diaries and private writings, such as Captain James Cook, and encouraged the public to cook them up and post pictures on social media under the hashtag #CookingForCopyright. It’s a cute idea, one which will hopefully encourage Australia to bring its copyright law into line with modernity. If you’d like to join in, there are details over here.