Australian Copyright and the Web

Sometimes I come across items on the web, or in the press, that basically make my jaw drop in wonder at the bewildering stupidity that is government bureaucracy in this country. The latest involves the nation's Copyright Tribunal which is threatening to make schools turn off access to the internet if teachers direct their students to access information off the web, and if subsequently the schools do not pay a fee.

This is so mind-bogglingly stupid it defies description. Presumably they are doing this on behalf of authors who wish to obtain some return from their websites in a similar manner to the way fees are obtained from photocopying in schools.

Okay, the photocopying I can understand even if I don't agree with it. Fair usage has to come into play here. So long as a student doesn't photocopy the "bulk" of a work there shouldn't be a problem. and I don't believe you should extract fees from schools on the off-chance someone might do the wrong thing. You might as well fine each driver each year for speeding just because maybe they did it and didn't get caught.

As to the web, what are the schools looking at anyway? Information is placed on the web specifically so people can look at it, not as a means of extracting fees. If an author wants to stop people looking at their work then they can just remove it - they control the availability of it after all.

I get a number of schools accessing my webpages and I would never even contemplate requiring anyone to pay me anything for them. I place a copyright notice at the bottom of each page not to restrict access but to restrict wholesale pirating and re-badging of the content. There's a difference. I like it if people email and ask permission to link to the site, but I don't insist on it. And I prefer it if people email and ask permission to copy work I've done - either a original piece or a transcription of a poem. But I'm never going to charge for the privilege.

Given I have written some original pieces, here and on other webpages, I wonder if the Copyright Tribunal will attempt to collect fees on my behalf. If they do I won't accept them, I'll just request they refund the monies to all the schools involved and ask for a complete accounting of the funds. That might slow them down a bit.

[Link from Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing.]

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 1, 2006 11:04 AM.

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J.M. Coetzee to Formalise "Australian" Status is the next entry in this blog.

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