How often do e-mails come through, brightly declaring that there is money owing to us and all we have to do is complete a few forms and the money will be deposited to our bank account forthwith? Oh sure. Next e-mail.
I received such an e-mail before Christmas and nearly gave it the usual delete treatment but it was worth a second look. The e-mail came from Copyright Agency Limited, a copyright management company that happens to be the declared collection society for statutory licences created under the Australian Copyright Act. These statutory licences allow for reproduction and communication of copyright material to the public by educational institutions and institutions assisting people with disabilities, provided they do so within the limits set out in the Act. There is also a statutory licence allowing Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to reproduce material without permission.
Copyright Agency collects and distributes licence fees from organisations that copy, such as universities, schools, TAFEs, State and Federal governments, corporations, associations and press clipping agencies. And the licence fees are nothing to be sneezed at. In my case, images from my blog and website had been used in teaching materials on 19 occasions and Copyright Agency was holding a tidy 3 figure sum on my behalf. I have completed the claim forms and understand that the licence fees will be deposited in my nominated account within 2-3 weeks.
As an artist that publishes online, I am aware of the risk that images of my work may be mis-used, circulated without attribution or otherwise exploited. However, I have always maintained that there is more to gain than to lose by sharing by work in this medium and this is just one example of cyber-karma at work. My website made it easy for the teachers to copy my work but it also made it easy for the collection agency to track me down. I am delighted that my textile works have been used in teaching materials and thank the relevant teacher(s) for their diligence in completing the annual Copyright Agency survey. What an unexpected bonus for 2012!