It is Fair Use week, and we have a special guest author sharing about a copyright debate that is considering implementing Fair Use: Delia Browne is National Copyright Director of the Australian National Copyright Unit (Schools and TAFEs). Australia is in the process of re-evaluating its copyright law, including the rules regarding education. The Australian reform offers interesting parallels with the actions in the European Union. We can only wish that a debate on flexible copyright norm was taking place also in Europe.
Like almost all nations, education is crucial to the future economic and social well-being of Australia. These are exciting times for education, but the benefits of the digital era will not be fully realised in our classrooms unless greater flexibility is introduced into our copyright laws. The rules around copyright were designed in the age of the photocopier; these are not working in the age of the iPad and the 3D printer, and are holding back innovation in schools.
The current system isn’t working
Copyright reform is a significant issue for Australian schools, as Australia’s outdated copyright laws currently stand in the way of teachers using the most modern teaching methods in the interests of Australian students. For example:
- The copyright rules are different for printed materials and digital teaching methods: current regulations stop teachers from using copyrighted material in online exams because the law says that exceptions to copyright for education apply to hard copy exams only. Similarly, teachers can write a quote from a book on a blackboard with chalk for free, but a licence fee applies when teachers write the same quote on an interactive whiteboard.
- The educational statutory licences penalise Australian schools for using digital technologies, as giving students access to content using digital technology can be up to four times more expensive than hard copy technologies. For example, printing a hard copy to hand out in class is one remunerable activity; providing the same information in digital form can involve as many as four remunerable activities.
- Modern teaching and learning methods such as MOOCs are transforming the way that education is delivered, but Australian copyright laws limit the ways that schools can take part in this. The Copyright Act does not permit these types of activities. By definition, MOOCs are open; i.e. MOOC courses are not confined to students enrolled at a particular educational institution. Neither the statutory licence, nor the research and study fair dealing exception, usually apply when content is shared with people outside the school.
- Schools pay millions of dollars of public funds to use freely available internet materials in the classroom. For the most part, the authors of these materials never wished or expected to be paid for these materials (like head lice fact sheets), or works where no copyright owner can be found.
- Government policy and community expectations require schools to take an increasing role in STEM education, industry collaboration, and equipping students with the digital skills they need to be successful in the workforce of the future. Australia’s copyright laws are hampering this. None of the existing copyright exceptions of statutory licences allows schools to use small amounts of copyrighted material when engaging in collaborative projects with the broader community, business, and industry.
- Critically, the absence of appropriate copyright exceptions makes it difficult or impossible for teachers to assist students with disabilities, such as making format-appropriate copies of resources for vision- or hearing-impaired students.