Copyright is involved in just about every service provided by Australian libraries. The copyright implications of some services, such as document delivery and inter-library loan, are relatively well defined under the Copyright Act and libraries have established national practices. Other services expected by the public in the digital era, such as putting digitised collections online, can present apparently insurmountable barriers. As Paula Le Dieu reflected about her role as project director of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Creative Archive, a pilot project to make BBC archive content available for re-use by the public, ‘If you are making a creative archive, you have to deal with the rights issue from the first breath, and keep dealing with it long after it has exhausted you’.
The Australian Libraries Copyright Committee (ALCC) is a tireless advocate of copyright law reform that appropriately protects the interests of rights holders while ensuring access to important cultural content in the public interest. Even if highly desirable reforms eventuate, such as a broad fair use exception and ending perpetual copyright in unpublished works, many complexities will remain, and a responsive twenty-first century library needs a large proportion of its staff to be both competent and confident in making copyright determinations.
Is it possible to develop a broadly applicable framework that teaches staff about copyright and their organisation’s risk tolerance within a decision making context? In 2013 ALCC’s copyright advisor Trish Hepworth began developing risk management guidelines to support libraries promoting collections online. In conjunction with Beth Roberts on at the State Library of South Australia (SLSA), these guidelines were incorporated into ALCC’s 2013 and 2014 training days in several states. During 2015 the guidelines were expanded by SLSA into a 12-step draft ‘Copyright determination and risk management framework’, which links to online Australian Copyright Council resources and draws on important work by the National & State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) Copyright Working Group that is providing standard approaches to copyright across NSLA libraries (e.g. identifying orphan works through a ‘reasonable search’, using Creative Commons licencing, and responding to takedown requests about online content). The draft framework is being trialled and adapted to help resolve diverse copyright issues that arise at SLSA from day to day pending formal approval.