How does Australian copyright law affect the classroom?

Recommendations by the Australian Productivity Commission could result in changes to how Australian copyright law affects resources in the classroom.

One of the most effective ways of ensuring that Australia's students are successful is to ensure that their teachers have access to effective resources.

The world of education is at a curious crossroads – materials exist in abundance, but their acquisition and use might not fall within the bounds of Australian intellectual property law. New provisions that ease copyright restrictions, however, may soon be on their way.

Giving teachers the tools they need

A major challenge that teachers around the world face is providing students with relevant and engaging materials in the classroom. With printed materials, schools often make use of bulk-purchased sets of books. This practice, however, can be rather limiting; it precludes new findings in many fields and prevents teachers from being able to create lessons that use new materials.

Only 67.8 per cent of teachers are satisfied with their access to educational resources

Purchasing new materials can be cost-prohibitive, and schools might not want to spend money on an unproven new lesson idea. This resource barrier is leading to some dissatisfaction among Australia's teachers.

According to the Staff in Australia's Schools Survey, only 67.8 per cent of teachers reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their level of access to educational resources – not a terrific score in most schools. Clearly, there is room for improvement with access to materials.

How can Australian copyright law help?

While many teachers have innovative ideas for getting new and engaging works into the classroom without worrying about the finances, these methods are not necessarily within the bounds allowed by copyright law in Australia.

One of the most common examples would be the use of photocopiers. If a teacher encounters a relevant chapter or article, is he or she allowed to make copies of that for the classroom? While a statutory license for educational institutions in included in the Copyright Act, it comes at a price. According to the Schools Copyright Advisory Group (CAG), these license fees cost over $90 million for Australian schools.

In its draft report, Intellectual Property Arrangements, the Australian Productivity Commission also noted a number of hypothetical situations that would not be permitted under current copyright law, including a teacher uploading scanned pages of a textbook to an interactive digital medium or recording a specific radio or television broadcast to play for students.

Does Australian copyright law hinder the use of technology in the classroom?Does Australian copyright law hinder the use of technology in the classroom?

For these and other reasons, the commission recommended the amendment of the Copyright Act to include a broader exception for fair use of protected works in its draft report.

For more information about how Australian copyright law affects educational institutions, contact Alder IP today.