Training organisations should double-check that they have an authorised copy of the training and assessment resources from the publisher of the resource before using them for training purposes.
In a number of audits, the regulatory body has requested proof of purchase because a number of stakeholders are aware that there are some offenders in the sector who do not purchase the actual copies of the resources, resell when they do not have authority, or obtain materials in other illegal ways.
The benefits of confirming the authorised copy
There are a number of advantages to confirming the licence of your training and assessment materials, including the fact that licensed resources are usually linked to a quality assurance guarantee and are usually eligible for free updates, which you do not receive if you obtain the resources in an illegal manner, as well as the fact that making and distributing resources that you are not licenced for is likely to infringe copyright and may be a criminal offence. This can also affect your reputation and registration under the governance and copyright clauses (Clause 8.5, particularly of Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015, provides: “The RTO complies with Commonwealth, State and Territory legislation and regulatory requirements relevant to its operations.”)
In addition, when applying for accreditation of a VET course, the national template requires that the applicant must:
Provide evidence that the applicant for accreditation either owns, or is licensed to exploit the copyright in any units of competency or modules. Include the name of the legal entity or individuals who own the copyright.
Copyright legislation in Australia
Training and assessment resources will generally be protected by copyright in Australia under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Copying and distributing these resources without the appropriate licence will usually be an infringement of copyright.
You may be aware of the Statutory Education Licence that is administered by the Copyright Agency. You need to pay the Copyright Agency an annual fee to obtain this licence. However, the Statutory Education Licence does not permit copying or transmitting an electronic copy of 100% of a resource if it is commercially available, but only allows use of a reasonable portion (eg 10%). Copying or transmitting an amount of the resource that would unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright owner is outside this licence. If you want to use more than a reasonable portion of someone else’s training and assessment resources, you will need to obtain a licence from the copyright owner or you will infringe copyright.
The consequences of copyright infringement can be significant. A court can order you to stop infringing and you could be liable for compensatory damages or have to pay the amount of your profits from using the unauthorised resource as well as handing over infringing copies to the copyright owner. You may even have to pay “additional damages”. These are a form of punitive damages that can often be more than the compensation payable. Plus, if the matter goes to court, there can be adverse publicity as well having your business tied up in litigation for a significant period of time. All this just to try and avoid a fee. Copyright infringement is not worth it.
For more information see the ASQA web page on RTOs and copyright: asqa.gov.au
By Sukh Sandhu and Margaret Ryan
Margaret Ryan is a lawyer and trade marks attorney with over 30 years’ experience in intellectual property, including copyright, and consumer protection law, working with organisations to find solutions, maximise the value of their IP and protect their business. IP by Margaret® – www.ipbymargaret.com.au