Author: Government recordkeeping

In December 2015, the Federal Department for Communications and the Arts released an Exposure Draft of an amending Bill to the Copyright Act 1968. The proposed changes would have particular implications for management and use of copyright material by archives and libraries.

The consultation period upon the Exposure Draft closes on 12 February 2016. Guiding Questions have also been released, all of which are available on the Department’s website.

Proposed changes of significance to archives and libraries include:



Former provisions regarding copying for the purpose of preserving the material would be revoked. In their place, the Copyright Act 1968 would allow not for profit archives which open their collection to the public to make copies of copyright records for preservation and research purposes. Archives which fall under the definition of key cultural institution would also be allowed to make preservation copies of records, regardless of whether the archive derives some level of profit or revenue generation from the collection [1]. Digital versions of preservation or research copies could be publically viewed in the archive provided they could not be copied or shared by the user.


Unpublished records

Under current copyright laws, records which are not published remain protected in copyright in perpetuity, so there can be restrictions on publication or other uses.

The amendments would introduce, amongst other things:

  • A new general protection period of life of the author plus 70 years for all copyright material where the author is known (for literary, dramatic, musical works and engravings).
  • For records not ‘made public’ , a protection period of 70 years commencing the year in which the record is first ‘made’, where the author is ‘not generally known’. However, if the record is ‘made public’ within 50 years of its making, the proposed amendments provide a protection period commencing when the record was first ‘made public’ plus 70 years.

Archival collections usually contain many unpublished records where the identity author of the work is unknown. However, they also typically contain records of which the author is known, but current copyright owner of the work cannot be traced to secure permission to use the records (commonly called ‘orphan works’). At this stage, it is not clear that the proposed amendments to the duration of copyright would include these types of records.


Copyright material made or first published by the Crown

For records in which copyright is owned by the ‘Crown’ the proposed amendments would set a copyright protection term of 50 years from the year in which the record was first made, regardless of whether the records have been published or ‘made public’ in any way.

The majority of records held at PROV are owned by the Crown.


[1] It is uncertain if these new provisions would cover public records in some government agencies.