Copyright - helping to providing access to resources during COVID-19

22 Mar 2020

Australian universities are facing a complex situation in terms of teaching delivery and research. There is an urgent need to deliver online education during this period as many students are not able to physically attend their university campus or classes.

It is vital that universities, particularly university libraries, take all the opportunities available to them to optimise the resources available in digital form to support educational activities at this time.

Library can significantly expand the availability of online resources through activities that are consistent with the Copyright Act 1968.

Find some tips below that will assist libraries to provide, acquire or create digital resources to support our clients through this complex time.

A reminder to begin with - Universities have detailed guides to copyright. The Australian National University Guide is available on our website.

Free access offered by our vendors and publishers

Many publishers and vendors are offering free access to resources to assist us in this time. While these offers are generally limited to the period that the universities are affected by changes in education due to COVID 19, they are extraordinarily helpful for our academic staff. The ANU Library has provided a list that is kept up to date on our website.

In addition, libraries are purchasing access to additional resources to assist at this time. Any requests for purchases at ANU should be sent to your local library staff.

Making copies under the educational licences

Universities Australia manages agreements with the Copyright Agency and Screenrights on behalf of its member universities. These agreements are negotiated and maintained in accordance with the statutory licence detailed in section 113P of the Copyright Act 1968.

Copying under these agreements is limited to one chapter, or 10% of a book or journal. Copyright Officers in universities can provide advice. The copies can be loaded to the electronic reserve system for easy access. The ANU Library has information about adding material to the e-reserve system on our website.

Making digital copies of out of copyright material

The Department of Communications and the Arts has an excellent guide to the duration of copyright, available on their website.

You can make copies and communicate material for which copyright has expired. You may find The Internet Archive contains public domain copies of material such as movies which are now out of copyright and therefore can be copied and communicated in your university.

Making copies with rights holder permission

You can copy and communicate digitised copies of material if you have permission from rights holders. Identifying rights holders can be a very time consuming and complex process and may not be able to be achieved within the timeframes needed. Permissions obtained should be stored as university records within appropriate system.

Digital copies in HathiTrust

HathiTrust is a partnership of academic and research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitised from libraries around the world. Many of the works that have been digitised are not openly available. This is an opportune time to work to open up access to your university’s publications and those of other organisations and individuals.

ANU has opened up access to around 2,660 publications in March 2020.

To request a list of relevant titles for assessment in order to obtain and provide authority to open up access contact They will forward you a file of relevant titles for your organisation. HathiTrust require the rights holder to complete a Declaration Form to provide permission to open up access to resources. If you identify a rights holder for material they need to fill in the form. Libraries can assist in providing the approvals to HathiTrust.

Copying under section 200AB

The Copyright Act 1968 section 200 AB was introduced in 2008. It allows libraries to make copies and communicate digitised material to enable copyright material to be used for certain socially beneficial purposes. It applies in situations where no other exceptions apply.

It requires that any use is non-commercial and that:

  • the use will not prejudice the copyright holder.
  • the use will not conflict with normal exploitation of the work.
  • the use is a special case.

These points are the three step test. If you are using this provision, the business case should be written and approved and recorded in your university record management system.

The exception cannot be used to make copies of commercially available works, such as text books.

The Australian Libraries Copyright Committee and the Australian Digital Alliance Section 200AB Flexible Dealing Handbook is available online.

Copying for students with disabilities

The Copyright Act contains two non-remunerable disability copying exceptions:

  • Use of copyright material by organisations assisting persons with a disability; and
  • Fair dealing for the purpose of assisting persons with a disability.

Disability is defined as “a disability that causes the person difficulty in reading, viewing, hearing or comprehending copyright material in a particular form”. This would include students with vision impairment, students who are unable to hold or manipulate books, students with an intellectual disability and students with general learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

The definition does not include a student who is temporarily unable to attend a campus.

Making copies for remote students and staff

The Off-campus Service supplies ANU Library material to eligible ANU staff and students living across Australia and overseas. This includes books and other physical resources, copies of chapters, journal articles and other materials subject to copyright limits.

Materials from other libraries can be requested via the Document Supply Service for delivery within Australia, but physical resources can only be sent overseas with the permission of the lending library.

Find out more about this service on our website.

Your institutional repository

Authors in your university are encouraged to make copies of their works available through their institutional repositories. In most cases, preprints and author accepted manuscript versions of research outputs such as journal articles and book chapters can be made immediately available through their institutional repository.

Opening up access through making outputs available assists academics to meet funder requirements, increase the dissemination of research and increase impact and engagement through citations and wider readership.

International discovery services for material published open access

Many scholarly authors provide open access to their works using copyright licences and agreements that enable libraries to copy and communicate the publications. Good starting points include:

Licences with publishers and vendors

On a final note - publishers and vendors licences are all different, as are payments of conditions for open access. A number of publishers allow for work by PhD students to be made openly accessible at no charge. Others allow material to be copied to be delivered for use within a course using alternative channels. It is a good time to review licences and agreements.



Libraries have a vital role to play at this time enabling access to a wide range of resources digitally. The Copyright Act 1968 provides assistance to respond to COVID-19 is a positive, practical way. This is an opportunity to open up access to resources that will create benefit to education now and in the future.

Roxanne Missingham
University Librarian
Australian National University

22 March 2020