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1.15 Liability of schools, TAFE institutes and individuals for copyright infringement

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Who is liable?

These people may be liable for copyright infringement:

  • the student/teacher doing the actual copying or communication of the copyright work without the copyright owners' permission.
  • the school/TAFE who authorises the infringement. For example the University of New South Wales was found liable for authorising breach of copyright by providing photocopiers in its libraries and failing to control or supervise what and how much was photocopied by students.

    See Hot Topics: Peer to Peer Networks for further information 

    The law was changed after this case so that schools/TAFE institutes will not be liable for photocopying done by students if they display the required copyright notice  near copying equipment (eg photocopiers, scanners, CD and DVD burners). This will avoid liability for authorising infringements by people using their equipment where the fair dealing exceptions do not apply.

  • the employers (for example, the Department of Education) of a teacher who infringes copyright in the performance of their teaching duties.

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Authorising copyright infringements

It is an infringement of copyright to authorise a copyright infringement made by someone else. This means that schools and TAFE institutes (and possibly Education Departments, Catholic Education Offices or Associations of Independent Schools) could sometimes be liable for copyright infringements done by students/teachers.

When deciding whether a school/TAFE has authorised a copyright infringement, some of the things a court will consider include whether the school/TAFE had knowledge of the infringements and whether the school/TAFE took any steps to stop potential infringements from occurring.

For example, a website operator has been found to have authorised copyright infringements committed by Internet users by providing hyperlinks to infringing material on the Internet.

Schools and TAFE institutes should take care not to:

  • provide links on school/TAFE intranets to content that is known or likely to be infringing (eg pirate music or movie sites)
  • allow students to download content from sites such as Limewire or YouTube where the content is likely to be unauthorised or 'pirate' (eg scenes from a currently screening Hollywood 'blockbuster'
  • allow students to 'burn' copyright content unless it is clearly for research or study purposes
  • store content on the intranet or learning management systems such as Clickview unless it is licensed or clearly covered by a copyright exception.

See 1.13: Copyright Exceptions for further information

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  1. Civil Remedies for copyright infringement

    The remedies available to a copyright owner for copyright infringement include:

    • damages (monetary compensation for loss)
    • additional damages (where the infringement has been flagrant)
    • an account of profits (compensation based on profit)
    • an injunction (a court order which prevents the infringer from further infringing)
    • delivery up (delivery up of any infringing articles or plates used to make the infringing articles)
  2. Criminal offences and penalties for copyright infringement

    Copyright infringements which involve commercial dealings may also be criminal offences. For example, it is an offence to:

    • make an infringing copy of a work or audio-visual material for sale or hire, sell or hire an infringing copy
    • distribute an infringing copy with the intention of obtaining a commercial advantage or profit

    A person found guilty of a criminal offence may be fined up to $93,500 and/or imprisoned for up to 5 years. Corporations may be fined up to five times the amount of maximum fines.

  3.  Offences relating to copyright protection technologies

    The Copyright Act provides civil and criminal actions and remedies against:

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