A little while ago I blogged about a case – and more particularly an argument – that is currently before the Copyright Tribunal. The case concerns the fees schools should pay for digital uses of copyright material; the argument concerns whether ‘telling students to view’ a website should ever be a remunerable act. Reports of the case had elicited a fair bit of commentary overseas. My own post elicited quite a lot of email.

The case itself has gone ‘underground’ a little – no new developments to be reported at this stage. But I did want to note a letter to The Australian newspaper, written by CAL CEO Michael Fraser about the case. I can’t find the letter online, so I’ll quote some of the key parts:

‘In both hardcopy and digital worlds there are creators who provide material for free, including for educational purposes.

So let’s get one thing clear: we do not and would not expect schools or any users to pay for freely available materials.

But the fact is there are copyright owners who wish to make a living from their works.

Copyright Agency Limited, as a collection agency, plays a crucial role in facilitating this by passing on royalties obtained from licence fees to those who wish to be paid, for example, when their work is used for commercial purposes or as an educational tool.

Surveys, such as the one run in schools, allow us to see what is being used so a fair licence fee can be set and we can identify and pay the copyright owners that wish to be paid for their work.

All CAL is asking for is an accurate snapshot of what’s happening in schools today by expanding the survey system to include all uses of digital materials, including uses directed by a teacher.

This information will help the independent Copyright Tribunal to make a just assessment about whether the actions involving digital copyright-protected materials in schools should lead to payment to the copyright owner. ‘ (emphasis added)

I’m very glad to hear that CAL has never, and will never expect schools, or anyone else to pay for freely available materials. That is, of course, the right position to take as a matter of general copyright law and policy. I’m glad to see that CAL have gone on the record about that position. Well done CAL!