Parliamentary libraries

15.22 There are specific exceptions in the Copyright Act that provide that use of copyright material for the purpose of assisting a member of Parliament in the performance of the person’s duties does not infringe copyright.[26] There is also an exception for interlibrary loans for the purpose of assisting members of Parliament.[27] These exceptions are not qualified by any fairness requirements.

15.23 The Australian Parliamentary Library reports that these provisions were enacted in 1984 in response to ‘a realisation that the copyright obligations on parliamentary libraries were having an increasingly problematic impact on the ability of those libraries to fulfil their function of providing parliamentarians with unimpeded access to quality information’.[28] Those obligations included ‘onerous record keeping requirements, the heavy restrictions on copying, the inability to provide audio visual services and build current affairs data bases, and issues of timeliness and confidentiality’.[29]

15.24 Parliamentary libraries indicated that these exceptions are necessary for their work.[30] The exceptions provide the certainty that the libraries need to fulfil their functions in a time-pressured environment.[31] The absence of record keeping requirements allows the libraries to preserve the required confidentiality.[32] The Australian Parliamentary Library also submitted that the Library ‘does not abuse the broad and generous exceptions’ and noted that the Library has a substantial collection development budget and subscribes to various media services.[33] No rights holders raised any concerns about the parliamentary library exceptions. The ALRC concludes that these exceptions should be retained.

15.25 However, the exceptions in their current form are not adequate for the digital environment. To carry out their duties, parliamentary librarians need to archive material from online sources and provide immediate access to information in digital form. Parliamentary libraries have called for ss 48A and 104 to be extended to include the capture of material in digital form, for s 48A to extend to dealing with copies of works.[34] The ALRC recommends that the parliamentary libraries exceptions should be technology-neutral and should apply to all of the rights encompassed by copyright.

15.26 Similarly, the exception in s 50(1)(aa), which allows a library to supply copies of works to parliamentary libraries, should be retained and updated to include digital works.

15.27 Parliamentary libraries have also reported concerns about contracts with publishers that appear to limit the scope of the exceptions for parliamentary libraries.[35] In Ch 20, the ALRC recommends that the Copyright Act should provide that a contractual term that excludes or limits the libraries exceptions is not enforceable.

Recommendation 15–1 The parliamentary libraries exceptions in ss 48A, 50(1)(aa) and 104 of the Copyright Act should be extended to apply to all types of copyright material and all exclusive rights.