Friday, March 04, 2011

Safe Harbours For Information Distributors

Greetings from "Policy Form: Righting the Copyright Imbalance", at the National Library of Australia, in Canberra. After morning tea in the surroundings of the National Library of Australia, the forum recommenced with a panel on "Safe Harbours".

Safe Harbours are legal provisions to protect those who help distribute information but don't have much control over it, such as ISPs and telecommunications companies.Under the Telecommunications Act 1997 such organisations are protected from legal consequences (such as breech of copyright) from what their customers do. The issue is if this protection should be extended to universities and libraries.

Ishtar Vij, Public Policy and Government Affairs at Google Australia spoke first. Google are in fvour of Safe Harbours so they can distribute materials online.

Tom Joyce, Copyright Lawyer for Unviersity of Queensland spoke next. I could not work out from what he said what the UQ's position was, but I assume it is in favour of them being a safe harbour.

Paula Bray, Visual and Digitisation Service, Powerhouse Museum pointed out they have to take risks with copyright in order to make materials avialable to the public. They had a "hack day" on how to make use of their open photo archive. Clearly they would benefit from Safe Harbours protection.

There does not appear to be any contrary view on the panel, not making for a very exciting discussion.

One point I don't agree with is that one speaker commented that "take-down notices" under the safe harbour legislation have to be "signed" and therefore could not be sent electronically. This did not seem correct to me as it is possible to legally sign an electronic document.

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