Managing copyright easily in the digital environment with the Statutory Education Licence

November 17, 2020

Without doubt, 2020 has been an unpredictable year for business.

Parts of the vocational education and training sector have been reshaped by COVID-19 with many providers rapidly revising the delivery of training programs to switch to online teaching models. The power of online delivery in certain circumstances is apparent and providers may look to permanently integrate online teaching into their business. This means it is now timely to think about copyright compliance when using digital text and images in this new environment. To support providers and make compliance easily manageable, the Statutory Education Licence is available through Copyright Agency. This permits the reasonable use of materials and the sharing of these with students for educational purposes.

Under Australian legislation, digital content is protected by copyright in the same way as hard copy content. Permission or a licence is usually required to copy and share copyright text and images for educational purposes, regardless of format. As digital content becomes more pervasive, it is important that your RTO ensures that every staff member is aware of their copyright compliance obligations.

The good news is that copyright compliance in your RTO is easy, regardless of the format of the content. If your organisation already has an agreement in place to access the Statutory Education Licence, managed by Copyright Agency as appointed by the Australian Government, you don’t need to make any further arrangements to copy and share a reasonable portion of text and images for educational purposes in an online setting. The versatility of the Licence allows for text and image resources to be copied and shared to students digitally, in addition to more traditional ‘in classroom’ copying such as photocopying and printing.

Some facts about using the Statutory Education Licence in an online setting:

  1. Provided your RTO has an agreement in place with Copyright Agency, you are permitted to use reasonable portions of a work for educational purposes. Under this agreement, the same guidelines apply in both a ‘physical’ and an ‘online’ setting.
  2. Digital text and images can be provided to students under the agreement by any means (e.g. material delivered to students studying from home and accessing Learning Management Systems, email, secure webpage, etc.) provided that the limitation guidelines are not being exceeded.
  3. You must make sure that copies are only used for educating your students – for example, by requiring individually-enrolled students to log in to access the content.

It is also good practice to implement an up-to-date copyright policy which includes information on online teaching and to make sure all employees are aware of it.

If your RTO is not covered by the Statutory Education Licence, you will need to monitor exactly which materials your educators are using for their face-to-face and/or online courses on a daily basis; where relevant, source the owner/publisher of each piece of copyright material they wish to use; and arrange payment whenever relevant on an individual basis.

With a little help from the Statutory Education Licence to deliver their online programs, RTOs are well placed to deliver quality training to assist in further developing the skills Australians need to move into a successful 2021 and beyond.

For more information on the Statutory Education Licence and how it can support your RTO with the increasing need for online course delivery during COVID-19 and beyond, feel free to contact Liesl Fitzpatrick, Senior Manager, Education Licensing, on 02 9394 7644 or at