Australia leads in disability access, thanks to copyright changes

Australians with a disability will have some of the strongest rights to access content in the world, thanks to changes to Australia’s copyright laws passed today.

Photo Victor Phung "Braille" CCBY-ND 2.0

(Photo Victor Phung "Braille" CCBY-ND 2.0)

Copyright peak body the Australian Digital Alliance elatedly welcomed the new laws. Executive Officer, Jessica Coates said: "This is a great step forward for all the Australians who have struggled to get content in the formats they need, whether that be large print, braille or other accessible formats. These amendments ensure that copyright law no longer prevents Australians with a vision impairment or other disability from accessing the books, websites and other essential information others take for granted."

The legislation, which passed the Senate this afternoon, will finally implement Australia’s obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.

"Australia took a leadership role in bringing about this treaty, and it is great to see us continuing to lead the world in its implementation" said Ms Coates.

Under the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Act 2017, whenever content - be it a book, film, online resource or government publication - is not accessible to a person with a disability because it is not available in the format they need, they or someone on acting on their behalf will be able to convert the work into the required format. The amendments remove the redundant bureaucratic hoops that currently consume disability organisations’ time and money, and promise access to the vast libraries of accessible materials that are available overseas.

The legislation also brings significant benefits to Australia’s libraries, archives, schools and universities. It fixes the previously broken and outdated preservation exceptions, ensuring cultural works will be there for future generations. It also frees schools and universities from unnecessary and costly bureaucracy and increases their ability to use the latest technologies to reach students wherever they are.

Perhaps most excitingly, as a result of changes passed today, on 1 January 2019 millions of unpublished works that have until now remained locked behind outdated and unjustifiable perpetual copyright laws will become free for all to use.

"From celebrity letters and war diaries, to recipe scrapbooks and theses, all of these items will be able to be digitised and shared online by our cultural and educational institutions. This will provide a major new resource for all Australians who appreciate the value of history - be they artists, researchers, teachers or innovators" said Ms Coates.

Many other changes are still needed in Australia’s copyright law to ensure that these new rights can be fully effective, and that our laws remain fit for purpose in a digital age. However, these new laws are a positive start, and will be world-changing for many Australians. The government and all who have worked hard over many years to bring them to pass are to be congratulated.

Media contact
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© 2016 - Australian Digital Alliance

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