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Down Under: Turning Off the Net in Schools?

Maybe our Australian colleagues can shed some light on what seems to be going on here:

From Australian IT, March 1, 2006:

SCHOOLS have warned they will have to turn off the internet if a move by the nation’s copyright collection society forces them to pay a fee every time a teacher instructs students to browse a website.

Teachers said students in rural areas would bear the brunt of cuts if the Copyright Agency was successful in adding internet browsing charges to the $31 million in photocopying fees it rakes in from schools.
The agency calculates the total due by randomly sampling schools each year for materials they copy, and extrapolating the results.

The battle between the schools and the agency will go to the Federal Court over its attempts to make schools pay for asking students to use the web.

Negotiations between the Ministerial Council on Education Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, representing the schools, and the agency have broken down over plans to change the scheme to include a question in the survey on whether teachers direct students to use the internet.

“If it turned out we’d have to pay them, we’d turn the internet off in schools,” the council’s national copyright director Delia Browne said.

If this were to come up under U.S. copyright law, the theory would be pretty far-fetched. Any possible claim of secondary liability for infringement by the students would fail almost immediately under some combination of implied license and fair use. Is Australian copyright law really so different?

UPDATE: Kimberlee Weatherall says that while Australian copyright law is different in many details, this claim is still far-fetched.

2 thoughts on “Down Under: Turning Off the Net in Schools?”

  1. Now Mike, how could I resist an open invitation like that one?

    I can assure you that the argument is also far-fetched under Australian law. In short, it won’t succeed. More extensive comments can be found here.

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