Commentary

Google Books wins ‘fair use’ but Australian copyright lags

15 Nov 2013
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Australia wants to foster innovation in a digital economy, but our copyright laws discourage businesses from investing in new technologies and make it harder for individuals to access the knowledge upon which innovation is based. Yesterday’s US decision in the Google Books case shows why US copyright law is much more supportive of innovation than ours.

The long, drawn out litigation between the Authors Guild and Google has reached a conclusion: Google’s ambitious mass-digitisation project, to scan the world’s books and make them discoverable online, is “fair use”.

Normally, scanning books counts as an infringement of copyright – the law prohibits people from making copies of books without permission. “Fair use” is the safety valve in this system: it enables people to do things with copyright works that are in the public interest.

Without fair use, many socially valuable reuses of copyright material would require the explicit permission of the copyright owner in advance. Seeking permission is a real problem; often, it is impossible to track the owner down, because copyright is automatic and lasts for 70-plus years after the author’s death.

Read the full article on The Conversation.

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2013
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