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ALIA declares 2019 ‘Year of the Public Domain’; millions of unpublished items released

Changes to Australian legislation that began on 1 January have given unpublished materials the same copyright term as published items, bringing millions of items into public domain.

The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) is celebrating the change by declaring 2019 ‘Year of the Public Domain’, helping to promote events at libraries aimed at highlighting the newly freed materials, and celebrating how they can be put to use for all Australians.

Unpublished materials were previously held in copyright in perpetuity, but changes to copyright law introduced by the​ Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and other Measures) Act 2017 mean that unpublished items will have a copyright term of 70 years after the author’s death—the same term as published items. The changes also create a new term of 70 years for materials with unknown authors, known as orphan works.

Material held in libraries and museums that has been affected by the change include: Jane Austen’s correspondence; Captain Cook’s diaries; handwritten manuscripts and letters from many Australian poets; ephemera from both World Wars, including posters, postcards, and advertising; personal papers of a multitude of former Australian politicians​; soldiers’ letters home, including love letters; Indigenous language research papers; and records of the Derwent Bank, one of Tasmania’s first banks.

The University of Sydney Library will release a collection of ​Henry Lawson’s papers held by​ its rare books and special collections department. The collection of scrapbooks contains ​letters between Lawson and his agents, collaborators, peers and associates, and other personal material in Lawson’s own handwriting.

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, ALIA ran the Cooking for Copyright campaign in 2015 calling for a reform to the law, then in March 2017 the bill was tabled in parliament, and passed in June that year.



Category: Library news