Just before Christmas, the Federal government has released a new Bill to amend the Copyright Act, ostensibly to improve the exemptions of, among other things, libraries and archives. Given that the Act was amended only a few months ago to impose more stringent controls over online and internet communication, this seems to be more tinkering around the edges, rather than the complete overhaul that it clearly needs. So, what goodies have the legislators imagined for us for the New Year?
The key areas are to enable better, more streamlined, rules for providing access copies to meet disability requirements, in line with the Marrakesh Treaty; to “simplify and streamline the existing preservation copying provisions”; allow for statutory licences for educational use and exams, and; to provide a new safe harbour provision and to limit the copyright period for unpublished and orphan works. Of these, the provisions for unpublished, orphan works seem the most useful, with copyright being limited to 70 years from death of the author. Government copyright will be limited to 50 years, whether published or unpublished, as opposed to the current status of perpetuity for unpublished works. There will also be a limit on anonymous and pseudonymous works of 70 years from the creation of the work.
While the limits on unpublished works will generally be welcomed by archives, the requirements for identified, unpublished works will still handicap archives and manuscript collections in trying to determine if the author is alive or dead, and when they may have passed away. A general provision of 70 years from the date of the work, and 50 years for government works, would be much simpler to monitor and use.
The consultation draft is open until February 12.
Happy New Year!