Outdated Compulsory Licensing Means Australian Schools Must Pay Millions To Use Free Internet Materials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Australia, where the Brisbane Times' site reports on an increasingly difficult situation in education as a result of outdated copyright approaches: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.

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Filed Under: australia, compulsory licenses, copyright, education

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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 3 Aug 2012 @ 4:54am


    "Yeah. This is the sort of thing Mike pokes holes in all the time. Why run it?"

    Because the problem exists regardless of the size of the estimate, and there's no other data currently available? Since the estimate isn't the entire basis of the claims being made, why is it not right to run the story?

    "You understand that this sort of licensing is really better than the options, such as schools just using whatever and then getting sued later."

    If only there were some middle ground between "licence everything" and "sue everybody"...

    "It's like a tax on blank media - it's a way to pay for stuff without having to go through the process every time for small amounts."

    Tax on blank media is also unfair and often targets people who use it for things that are not covered by the tax. It benefits legacy players while penalising new and independent usage. I'd support getting rid of that as well.

    It's only a way to "pay for stuff" that needs paying for. If increasing amounts of usage are for things that aren't covered by that payment, why is it not right to question the need for that payment itself?

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