Online teaching & COVID-19

The statutory education licence allows education institutions to prepare and deliver materials to students for online learning. Online teaching is not new, but many education institutions are now delivering it for the first time due to COVID-19.

For materials containing text and images, there are 4 main requirements.

Requirement What this means
1. the institution is covered by payment arrangements with Copyright Agency There are payment arrangements in place for:

  • nearly all Australian schools
  • TAFEs
  • members of Universities Australia
  • other education institutions, such as registered training organisations, listed here
  • members of Early Childhood Australia
2. the material is copied and/or shared for educational purposes Education purposes includes:

  • made or retained for use, or is used, in connection with a particular course of instruction provided by the institution
  • made or retained for inclusion, or is included, in the collection of a library of the institution
3. the material is not used for any other purpose Institutions need to take steps to make sure that materials are not used for any other purposes, for example by:

  • using secure servers to ensure that materials are only available to the relevant students and parents assisting them
  • telling students and parents how they can and can’t use the materials (e.g. no sharing with others)
  • not retaining material any longer than needed for educational purposes
4. the institution does not copy or share more than a reasonable portion of a publication that is available for purchase An institution copying from a publication that is available for purchase can copy and share 10% of the pages, or a chapter, per student per course.

An institution may be allowed to copy and/or share more if that is reasonable, and not detrimental to the content creators if done at scale. For example, if lots of people copy 80% of a book available for sale, instead of buying it, then that is likely to be detrimental to the content creators.

Provided these requirements are met, an institution can copy and share any material containing text and images that is available to it, including digital and print material. It can digitise (scan), duplicate digital copies, and upload to a server. It can share material on a server to students, and email to students, provided the material is only available to the relevant students, and for the necessary time.

PDFs of entire books

If you need to provide an entire PDF to students to achieve an education outcome, first check if a suitable eBook version, with suitable licence arrangements, is available for purchase. If it is, you should purchase copies for your students. People who create content need to be supported so that they can continue to produce the content that will needed in the future.

If a suitable version is not available for purchase, you may make a PDF of an entire book available to the students who need it, provided that you ensure it is only used by your students for their education (see suggested steps above). Content creators are understandably concerned that their usual income will be substantially reduced during this pandemic if free supply replaces existing income streams. They also wish to ensure their content is kept secure and only used for educational purposes.

Reading stories online

See special arrangements agreed by representatives of Australian authors, publishers and schools here.

In summary:

  • use live streaming where you can
  • you can make a recording available online provided:
    • it is ‘view only’, so that no further copies can be made or downloaded
    • wherever possible, it is only made available using password protected access in a digital teaching environment (not made available generally on the internet)
    • you give the name of the book, author, illustrator and publisher at the beginning of the recording

These arrangements are just for the COVID-19 emergency period, and recordings cannot be retained after that.


  • Copyright Agency has developed an online product called FLEX to help educators and librarians prepare and deliver course material
  • the education statutory licence also allows copying and sharing of broadcast content such as TV programs (managed by Screenrights): see here
  • there are also licensing arrangements for music managed by APRA AMCOS and PPCA: see here
  • the Australian Copyright Council provides expert information and advice including a range of information sheets and guides for the education sector: see here
  • staff in schools and TAFEs can see the National Copyright Unit guidelines here
  • staff in universities can contact their copyright officer for assistance

8 April 2020

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