While copyright reform moves at a glacial pace, it is pleasing to report that in 2017 the Australian Government introduced important changes to copyright law in the form of the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Act 2017 which came into force on Friday 22 December. The changes it brings about are the most significant to Australian copyright law in over a decade, according to the Australian Digital Alliance (ADA). The ADA report states that the Amendment:
‘…ends the antiquated concept of perpetual copyright for unpublished works, instead applying the same basic terms to all materials, regardless of whether they are published or not. It also applies flat terms to orphan works whose authors cannot be identified 70 years from when they were created or made public (this fact sheet on the changes from the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee explains what all this means).
When these laws come into effect on 1 January 2019 they will apply to all works currently protected by copyright in Australia. This means that literally millions of old unpublished works from our national collections will enter the public domain all at once, including recipes used by Captain Cook, letters written by Jane Austen and endless ephemera. Every year after that, unpublished works whose authors died 70 years earlier will also fall into the public domain, and orphan works created/made public 70 years earlier.’