Librarians Cook Their Way to Copyright Victory

Librarians and archivists all over the country can hang up their aprons after successfully cooking their way to copyright reform.

In a rare act of civil disobedience, in 2015 hundreds of librarians and archivists digitised and uploaded vintage recipes in defiance of antiquated copyright law, and then cooked the results. The campaign, Cooking for Copyright, was run by the Australian Library and Information Association as part of its FAIR (Freedom of Access to Information and Resources) initiative to draw attention to the problems caused by perpetual copyright in unpublished works.

Today the participants had their victory, when the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Act passed through Parliament with unanimous support.

“It feels great to have cooked our way to such deliciously successful reform” says Jessica Coates of the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee, the peak body for library and archival copyright issues in Australia.

Librarians and archivists have been frustrated for years by the fact that the bulk of historical collections have been locked away by copyright law.

“Even when notes or scribbles are hundreds of years old with no possible chance of tracking down descendants, they are still locked away due to copyright protections. This change means things like the diaries of Captain Cook or the letters of Jane Austen can be accessed and used by school kids, researchers and the general public” said Ms Coates

Baked into the bill are a number of other essential reforms for the library and archive sector. Changes to preservation copying exceptions will mean that libraries and archives can implement world class practices for protecting works such as digital files, a much needed improvement for a provision originally drafted when the photocopier was new.

Educational reforms in the bill will likewise update teaching for the 21st century, streamlining the statutory licences and finally allowing material to be included in online examinations.

“Most excitingly” says Ms Coates “the legislation implements Australia’s commitments under the Marrakesh Treaty - the copyright treaty for the blind and vision impaired. It removes the barriers that currently prevent libraries and archives from creating accessible copies for people with a disability. This is particularly important in the university sector where students with a print disability often have to wait long periods for essential materials or cannot get them at all in the exact format needed.”

“This Bill is the culmination of years of work from people in the disability, library, archive and education communities. The government is to be congratulated on passing such a successful piece of copyright reform which will have immediate beneficial effects for the country” she concluded.

To celebrate the passing of the bill, the Australian Library and Information Association encourage us to once more bring these recipes to life and share a morning tea on Monday 31 July, two years after the first campaign. Share photos of your morning tea and celebrations on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #Cookingforcopyright.

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Media contact
Jessica Coates: jcoates@nla.gov.au