LIANZA: Extension of copyright duration will impact libraries and library users
Under present New Zealand copyright law, copyright continues until 50 years after the death of the author or creator of a work. In most if not all free trade agreements negotiated with other countries, the United States has insisted that intellectual property law, and in particular copyright law, be strengthened in favour of copyright owners, to bring it more in line with United States copyright law. One change forced by the United States on the countries with which it has negotiated is an extension of the duration of copyright – in Australia, for example, copyright duration has had to be extended from 50 years after the death of the author or the year of publication to 70 years. Since under American law the duration of copyright ranges between 70 and 120 years, it seems likely that under the present TPP negotiations New Zealand will be forced to extend the duration of copyright from the present 50 years, to 70 years after the death of the author/creator or the year of publication/creation, or even longer. Such an extension will impact on libraries and their users, and on educational institutions, teachers, students and researchers.
It is the ambition of librarians, both here in New Zealand and overseas, to make out-of-copyright print resources available digitally to their users, and already a significant number of older-published New Zealand books and newspapers have been digitised by university and public libraries, by the National Library, and by organisations such as the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. Digitisation allows out-of-copyright works to be accessed outside the holding libraries, such as from homes, schools or places of work, on a 24 / 7 basis; and provides keyword searching facilities not available in the print environment. Extension of copyright duration will greatly impede libraries’ digitisation programmes: there will be a longer period before works come into the public domain and can be digitised; works already digitised may have to be withdrawn if the law change is applied retrospectively; and it will be much more difficult than it already is to trace copyright owners. The consequence is that access to recorded information and knowledge by New Zealanders will be considerably reduced.
Extension of copyright duration will also have a serious adverse effect on the use of now out-of-copyright works such as photographs, illustrations or other images in new scholarly, educational and research publications. It is already extremely difficult under current copyright law to trace copyright owners in order to seek permission to make use of their work; extension of copyright duration beyond the present 50 years after the death of the author or year of publication will make this task even more difficult.
LIANZA is also concerned that an extension of copyright duration will have a serious impact on research and scholarship in New Zealand. It is well proven that new scholarship builds on older scholarship. If New Zealand researchers and scholars are prohibited from making use of earlier works for an additional two decades or even longer, there will be a major impact on creativity and the production of new knowledge, which in turn will adversely impact on the drive to develop a knowledge economy in this country.
The extension of copyright duration will not benefit the authors or creators of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic or scientific works – they are long dead. Rather, it will benefit only their heirs and successors, and more particularly large corporate organisations that claim copyright ownership of the original works, to an extent that is well beyond what is reasonable.
LIANZA – The Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa – is the organisation that serves and promotes the interests of the New Zealand library and information industry. www.lianza.org.nz