Open Letter from 25 Teacher Associations supports copyright

August 23, 2017

Teacher Associations representing more than 200,000 teachers and/or schools around the country have signed the following Open Letter to oppose the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on copyright in Australia because it will affect their ability to create high quality resources for teachers. 



We the undersigned unanimously reject the Productivity Commission’s Recommendations on copyright in Australia. The recommendations to change copyright protections threaten an easy-to-use, effective copyright licensing system that allows teachers to access enormous amounts of content so they can focus on the task of enhancing the potential of students and creating lifelong learners.

It will also impact on the current fair payments that are made to creators for the use of their copyright material, many of whom are educators. These payments help fuel the creation of world-leading Australian teaching resources, many of which are successfully exported.

Australian educators, publishers, teachers, authors and creators have a right to receive fair payment for their work. The changes to Australian copyright laws being pushed by the Productivity Commission, large organisations and big technology companies will greatly diminish these protections.

This is not just unfair, it is a threat to the overall quality of Australian education and its relevance for student and societal needs and means it may be even harder to make a living for the next generation of creators of Australian educational and creative content.

The importance of copyright in supporting effective learning and in the development of cutting-edge educational content cannot be underestimated. Australian children should be able to grow up inspired and entertained not only by our local stories and our local culture, but also by locally-produced educational materials.

At a time when jurisdictions around the world are reviewing the impact of major technology companies on cultural and educational production, we call on the Australian Government and parliament to protect Australian stories and content and rule out the Productivity’s Commissions proposed changes.


  1. Australian Association for the Teaching of English
  2. Australian Literacy Educators Association
  3. Australian Science Teachers Association
  4. Australian Society for Music Education
  5. Australian Geography Teachers Association
  6. Primary English Teachers Association of Australia
  7. Australian Professional Teachers Association (APTA) Board
  8. Teacher Learning Network
  9. Association of Women Educators
  10. Professional Teachers’ Council NSW
  11. History Teachers’ Association of NSW
  12. English Teachers Association NSW
  13. Science Teachers’ Association of NSW
  14. Economics and Business Educators NSW
  15. Geography Teachers Association of NSW
  16. Victorian Association for the Teaching of English
  17. Science Teachers’ Association of Victoria Inc
  18. Science Victoria
  19. English Teachers’ Association of Queensland
  20. Australian Teachers of Media (QLD)
  21. Queensland History Teachers Association
  22. South Australian Science Teachers Association
  23. Legal Education Teachers Association of South Australia
  24. Professional Teaching Council of Western Australia
  25. English Teachers Association of WA


The Australian newspaper ran a story about the Open Letter on Wednesday 23 August,Teachers slate copyright reform

The story reads: “The importance of copyright in supporting effective learning and in the development of cutting-edge educational content cannot be underestimated. Australian children should be able to grow up inspired and entertained not only by our local stories and our local culture, but also by locally produced educational materials,’’ the teachers argue.

Wendy Cody, president of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, said teachers did not understand why the commission had headed down this path. “I’m also an author of textbooks so wearing that hat and wearing my AATE hat, because we also produce textbooks and resources, I’m just thinking, ‘what is going on here?’ ” she said. “What is the point of it? Is it just because of economics, or is it philosophy, ideology? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it’s just wrong.’’

Changes risky say teachers

In July, the President of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, Wendy Cody, wrote 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.”

Her article brought an immediate response from Canadian author John Degen of the International Authors Forum in this Letter to the Editor of The Australian Financial Review:

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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