Changes to world-leading copyright system risky, say teachers

July 10, 2017

The President of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, Wendy Cody, has written in The Australian Financial Review of how important Australia’s copyright licensing system is for their association and for teachers, because “…it’s a fair system and it works because it lets teachers get on with the job of doing what they do best – and that is creating an environment for learning that brings out the potential in every child…”

She writes: A good teacher is irreplaceable. We’ve all had them – and we remember how they made us feel: inspired, excited, delighted and wanting to learn more. We know that a great teacher can make a world of difference to children. It’s the difference between just scraping through school and really switching something on inside their brains that will stay with them forever.

But great teachers need resources and they need to be able to access them.

Our association for the teaching of English is one source of rich content for them and there are many others.

The modern teacher is a content curator for their kids (and many of them create content themselves).

One thing that lets a teacher get on with their job of creating great learners is not having to worry about where they get their content from and whether they have permission to use it. They don’t have to worry because Australia has a unique world-leading, all-you-can-eat copyright licence for educators. It costs less than the price of a textbook for each student and the fees are paid by the education systems. It allows unfettered access to everything published and teachers needn’t fear breaching someone’s copyright.

It means content creators, such as my organisation, which is a member of the not-for-profit Copyright Agency, receive annual royalty payments when teachers use the copyright material that we produce for them.

Educational publishers are also Copyright Agency members. They include 3P Learning from NSW, which developed the internationally successful Mathletics, Reading Eggs and Into Science; Queensland’s Firefly Education with their award-winning Think Mentals and English Stars; and Western Australia’s R.I.C. Publications who produce The Literacy Box, The Comprehension Box and The Maths Box.

Changes are in the wind to relax Australia’s copyright laws. But very few of the proponents of those changes – including the Productivity Commission, libraries, academics and Big Tech players – have considered the impact they would have on teachers.

Will teachers have to ask what is in and out of copyright? And what about the fair payment to creators that is made now – will that disappear? In Canada, a change to copyright laws meant schools and universities kept using the same amount of copyright material but stopped paying the licence fees. The effect on local authors and publishers was immediate and disastrous.

As a creator of resources by teachers for teachers, my organisation strongly opposes any change to the current system that affects the remuneration for the people who create high-quality and highly valued Australian education resources.

We know that the system doesn’t capture every single use. We and others, sometimes wish it did. But it’s a fair system and it works because it lets teachers get on with the job of doing what they do best – creating an environment for learning that brings out the potential in every child, whether they are a future innovator, artist, engineer, doctor, plumber or teacher.

See the article as it appeared in The Australian Financial Review newspaper on 10 July, 2017: Changes to copyright system risky say teachers AFR 10 July


In response to the above article, this Letter to the Editor, appeared in The Australian Financial Review on 11 July 2017

Lesson from Canada’s copyright blunder

Thank goodness for the Australian Association for the Teaching of English and its logical, progressive view on strong copyright law (“Copyright changes are risky, say English teachers” July 7). In Canada, most educational groups succumbed to the siren call of weakened copyright sung by self-serving techno-utopian voices like Wikipedia, Google and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and our government gutted the law.

Now Canadian educators regularly find themselves in court unprotected by institutional licences, student costs have risen sharply, there is less domestic material for teaching, homegrown writers’ incomes have collapsed and the domestic publishing industry is in crisis.

Australia should learn from the example of Canada’s terrible mistake. The only winners with weakened copyright and expanded “fair use” are the wealthy offshore technology firms with business models built on access to masses of free content. Everyone else ends up poorer and with fewer rights. The argument that copyright somehow gets in the way of access is completely disingenuous. Copyright is about encouraging respectful, fair and sustainable access to cultural products. Those arguing otherwise simply want someone else to pay the bill.

John Degen, Canadian, author,

Chairman of the International Authors Forum

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