Friday, March 04, 2011

Educational Online Copying

Greetings from "Policy Form: Righting the Copyright Imbalance", at the National Library of Australia, in Canberra. After discussing the iinet case. I skipped the next session and went to browse the new periodicals in the main NLA reading room. This was more difficult than expected, as NLA have moved the periodicals racks again.

Delia Browne, Director, National Copyright Unit, Copyright Advisory Group of Austrlaian Schools talked in th next forum session on "Educational Online Copying". She made a passionate case for educational institutions to have access to online material for free, unless there is an indication a fee is payable.

The reason for schools having to pay for online material derives from the precedent of photocopiers. The problem is that when this approach is applied to online material, schools end up having to pay for material, such as ordinary web pages, which the owner didn't intend to charge for. CAGAS has been arguing the case for material which is provided freely online, not avialable commercially, with the copyright owner not expecting payment and not password protected.

It seems to me that CAGAS could look for technical solutions. It would be possible to create a system which would scan all the web pages in Australia and automatically determine the status of most of them. Where it was not clear if a fee was payable the system could attempt to contact the owner and ask.

It also occurs to me that this is an issue which will solve itself over time. The current problem is a hangover from the photocopier era, where the teacher had to make a copy to make a document avialable to the students. If the material is online and the student has access, then the teacher does not need to copy the material. Online content creation tools, such as Moodle and AContent could be modified to help with this. When an author attempts to copy something from the web into the system, it could automatically identify this, check the document is free online, is avialable in an archive and then replace the copy with a link. The author could be given the option of overriding the link and making a copy, after being warned this will cost money.

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