Cultural institutions in the digital environment

12.5 In this chapter, the ALRC uses the term ‘cultural institutions’ to refer to libraries[1] and archives[2] (including museums, galleries and public broadcasters) as defined in the Copyright Act. These cultural institutions have an important public interest role in maintaining collections and providing access to cultural and historical knowledge.[3]

12.6 The digital environment has changed the ways in which copyright materials are created, stored, preserved and published by cultural institutions.[4] In particular, the digitisation of collections has been recognised in government policy. The Australian Government’s report, Creative Australia: National Cultural Policy, emphasised that:

The way in which we engage with the collections of our National Collecting Institutions will change significantly. The digitisation of their collections and increasing online engagement, using the potential of the NBN, will exponentially increase the value and role of our national collections in telling Australian stories.[5]

12.7 During the Inquiry, cultural institutions sought reform to the Copyright Act that would give them greater freedom to engage in:

  • routine digitisation of collection material;[6]

  • digitisation and provision of access to unpublished material (for example, on a museum’s website);[7]

  • digitisation and communication of non-Crown copyright material that forms part of government records;[8]

  • capturing and archiving Australian web content;[9]

  • mass digitisation projects;[10] and

  • use of orphan works.[11]

12.8 The fact that cultural institutions require greater flexibility to use copyright material in the digital environment is not a new consideration to copyright law reform in Australia. There was substantial debate during the Inquiry as to whether the current flexible dealing exception in s 200AB, discussed below, is adequate or whether it should be replaced by fair use.