Proposed amendments to the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)

On 29 March 2017, the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (Bill) was introduced to the Senate.  The Bill proposes to amend the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Act) to allow for new situations where the use of copyright material will not result in an infringement of copyright, and to change the standard terms of copyright duration.  The Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum sets out that these amendments aim to:

“enhance access to copyright material for persons with a disability, … streamline and modernise provisions for the education, libraries and archives sectors of Australia; and harmonise terms of copyright for published and unpublished materials, and allow greater access to and use of culturally valuable materials.”

Uses that do not infringe copyright

The Bill proposes to insert a new Part IVA into the Act which outlines four (4) situations where the use of copyright material will not result in an infringement.

Division 2 – Access by or for persons with a disability

The Act currently permits the making of accessible copies of books and other copyright material under a number of different provisions.  The Bill proposes to replace these with two new exceptions.  The first is a fair dealing exception for persons with a disability and anyone assisting them.  The second is an exception for organisations assisting persons with a disability.  The proposed fair dealing exception will set out four factors to determine whether a use of copyright material is a “fair dealing”: the purpose and character of the dealing, the nature of the copyright material, the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of the material, and the amount and substantiality of the part dealt with taken in relation to the whole material.

Division 3 – Libraries and archives

At current, the Act includes a number of separate exceptions that allow staff of libraries, archives and certain key cultural institutions to make or communicate copies of material in collections for preservation purposes.  Presently, a distinction is drawn between preservation copying of works and subject-matter other than works, and also between materials in their original or published form.  The Bill proposes to replace these provisions with simpler, uniform provisions that give libraries, archives and prescribed key cultural institutions greater flexibility in copying and digitisation of copyright material, whether published or unpublished, to preserve or administer their collections.

Division 4 – Educational institutions – statutory licence

Statutory licenses are at present dealt with in Parts VA and VB of the Act.  The Bill proposes to repeal these provisions and replace them with a simplified system of educational statutory licenses, whereby educational institutions may copy or communicate works and broadcasts provided they agree to pay equitable remuneration to a collecting society.

Division 5 – Collecting societies

The Bill provides a framework for the operation of declared collecting societies under the new statutory licence, including record keeping and reporting requirements.

Duration of copyright

The Bill establishes new standard terms of protection for works, sound recordings and cinematograph films.  For works, the Bill proposes a new standard protection period of “life of author plus seventy (70) years” that does not differentiate between works that are made public and those that are not.

For sound recordings and cinematographic films, if the material is made public within fifty (50) years of being made, then copyright subsists for seventy (70) years from the date it was first made public, but if the material is not made public within fifty (50) years of being made, then copyright subsists for seventy (70) years from the date it was made.

Further references


Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)

Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (Cth)

Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (Cth) – Explanatory memorandum

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Further information

If you need assistance with any aspect of copyright, please telephone me for an obligation free and confidential discussion.

Brisbane Lawyers

Malcolm Burrows B.Bus.,MBA.,LL.B.,LL.M.,MQLS.
Legal Practice Director
Telephone: (07) 3221 0013 | Mobile: 0419 726 535


This article is not legal advice. It is general comment only.  You are instructed not to rely on the commentary unless you have consulted one of our Lawyers to ascertain how the law applies to your particular circumstances.

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