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Public rights to copyright material

Recommendations have recently been made for improved engagement with Wikipedia by galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) in Australia and Zealand.

They arise from the "GLAM-WIKI: Finding the common ground conference held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 6-7 August 2009.

There is an overall push evident in the legal content in the 170 recommendations for opening up access to public domain content and for use of Creative Commons licence formats. The push to access public domain content requires removal or clarification of impediments under copyright law.

Noteworthy legal recommendations include:

  1. Pro-actively publish the copyright status of specific content in the online collection rather than blanket access statements for the whole collection.
  2. Remove claim of copyright over scans/photographs of Public Domain content as per the "originality" principle.
  3. Provide definitive statement on the applicability of Bridgeman v. Corel corp. principles as they apply to Australia i.e. whether "sweat of the brow" is enough to create new copyright or whether "originality" is required (as in the USA).

Legal change is of course in part a function of lobby power. These legal recommendations may be included in the cultural sector's wish list for copyright law changes next time the copyright law "reform" item comes up in the Federal Government's agenda.

The word "reform" connotes improvements. A very broad range of improvements are needed to Australian copyright law to facilitate increased public rights to access Australian public domain or commons materials.

This was evident at the conference in a slide show on "Public Rights in Copyright" presented by Graham Greenleaf, Co-Director, AustLII, and a prominent innovator in legal and public access circles in Australia and globally. Greenleaf is a pioneer in public access to statutory law and court decisions and his work has helped inspire similar developments in several countries - see in Wikipedia Free Access to Law Movement.


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