SCHOOLS are paying millions of dollars to use freely available internet resources under ”draconian” copyright laws that have failed to keep pace with digital learning.
Schools spend almost $56 million a year under a compulsory licence to copy material such as books and journals without permission from the copyright owner. But an unintended consequence of the licence means schools also pay millions for internet material that the website owners never intended to charge for, according to the National Copyright Unit, which provides specialist copyright advice to the schools and TAFE sector.
While it was difficult to calculate the exact amount paid for freely available internet material, the best estimate suggested it was about $8 million, said Delia Browne, the unit’s national copyright director.
Schools also pay millions of dollars so teachers can copy classroom material from books, something individuals can do free.
”Australian schools pay copyright fees every time a teacher prints from the internet, saves a document from a website or asks a student to print a webpage for a homework assignment,” Ms Browne said.
These costs were likely to increase as the national broadband network was rolled out and might ”eventually become prohibitive”, she said.
The unit will make submissions on schools’ behalf to the Australian Law Reform Commission, which is holding an inquiry into copyright and the digital economy.