The Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) is the peak leadership organisation for university libraries in Australia. Its members are the 39 Australian universities with representation on Universities Australia and 8 members of the Council of New Zealand University Librarians (CONZUL).
COVID-19 has created a new environment where Australian university libraries have largely been unable to offer direct access to their physical collections to the university community. Access to online resources, access by remote users (that is those physically unable to use the collections) and resources (digital copies) for new forms of learning have been the characteristics of library interaction for educators and students during the year. Copyright legislation has been an enabler for the making of digital copies and remote delivery. While those creating the legislation did not envisage that physical access would be restricted so extensively by disasters such as pandemics and bushfires and other natural disasters, collecting evidence on how the provisions have been used shows a practical application in different circumstances.
A survey was undertaken of Australian CAUL members to understand the extent of use of provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 to support students and academics during the pandemic.
- The extent of digital collections available in universities (current CAUL members spend is 98.4% of journal budget on digital materials and 85% of the spend on books is on electronic books) meant that copyright provisions were used primarily for material not available digitally
- Section 200AB confusing and was not broadly used as there were concerns that the wording was not easy to apply effectively in a time of pressure on resources
- Audio visual material was in demand but there was hesitancy to make digital copies because of a lack of clarity and guidance
- While US based digital archives offered controlled digital lending, Australian universities accessed only the openly accessible material as they could not register for lending under the current provisions of the Copyright Act
- The substantive reforms proposed to the Copyright Act are timely and important to support universities.