Last week the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) issued a media release (Are your books being donated to Internet Archive?) saying:

“The ASA is dismayed to learn that the National Library of New Zealand’s (NLNZ) donation of over 400,000 books to Internet Archive includes a number of Australian books, many of which are still in copyright. These include books by Helen Garner, Tom Keneally, Frank Moorhouse, Gerald Murnane, Sally Morgan, David Malouf, Colin Thiele, Mem Fox, Tim Winton and more.”

The ASA has written to the NLNZ about this twice, and has requested that the NLNZ proactively seek permission from any rightsholders whose books will be donated to the Internet Archive for digitisation. Therefore, the media release goes on:

“We were disappointed to receive a response this week from the NLNZ indicating that, despite our criticisms, they are placing the onus on book creators and publishers to opt-out of the donation.”

The ASA is therefore urging its members to opt-out immediately – they have until December 1 to do so.

The International Authors Forum (which includes the New Zealand Society of Authors and the ASA), also called for action last week in order to support the New Zealand publishing industry and maintain the integrity of the international copyright framework that underpins publishing worldwide.” (Call for action National Library of New Zealand partners with Internet Archive )

The Forum’s media release says that it “…supports the call to action by NZSA and calls for its membership and colleagues to support the request. IAF urges its members to reach out to authors to ensure they are aware of the possibility that their works are being used in this way, and to offer advice on how authors can have their works taken off this website.”

When was the last time an action by a New Zealand government department (the Department of Internal Affairs, which is responsible for the NLNZ) attracted so much international attention – and criticism? What was the issue? The Book Guardians have been around for awhile, and we can’t remember anything like it before.

New Zealand is supposed to uphold the international treaties it signs up to, and according to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment’s page on Copyright protection overseas  we have signed up to at least seven such international agreements on copyright. MBIE says “An original work protected by copyright in New Zealand is generally protected by the applicable laws of countries that are also members of these agreements. As in New Zealand, you don’t need to register for copyright protection in these countries – copyright protection arises automatically when any original work is created. Similarly, when original works are created in these other countries, they are also protected in New Zealand.”

It’s all about giving everyone a fair go. Once upon a time (last century?) this was considered to be a core New Zealand value. When authors and publishers societies worldwide are convinced that the Internet Archive’s so-called Open Library breaches all those international agreements to protect creators and their works, and they are asking for New Zealand to ditch its contract with said Internet Archive, when will the New Zealand government start taking this matter seriously and override the wrong decisions made by DIA middle management, who appear to be ignorant both of New Zealand’s international responsibilities and its core values? Watch this space…

One thought on “International calls to stop New Zealand breaching copyright law

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