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Law in Context

Abstract from Volume 29 No 1 (2013) Intellectual Property and New Technologies

Copyright Norms and Flexibilities and the Digitisation Practices of New Zealand Museums

Susan Corbett is Associate Professor in Commercial Law, School of Accounting and Commercial Law, Victoria University of Wellington. Susan is a member of InternetNZ, an Associate of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand, and General Secretary of the newly formed Asian Pacific Copyright Society. Her research is focused on copyright law and digital culture, online privacy law and cyber-law more generally. Her chapter is based on research funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation.

Many New Zealand museums seek to digitise their collections as a way of achieving their objectives. Museums’ digitisation projects have, however, exposed certain gaps and flaws in the Copyright Act 1994. In particular, the ‘archiving exceptions’ are inadequate and do not reflect the practicalities of the digitisation process; there is no legislative provision requiring that museums take a balanced approach which reflects established cultural property theory when seeking to digitise cultural works originating from Māori; and there is no legislative protection for items in the public domain. Currently, therefore, in making use of digital technology many museums appear to take a flexible approach to the law.

This article examines each of the three areas described above in more detail and concludes that in some instances the flexible approach to the law adopted by museums may provide useful guidance to the legislature when it seeks to amend the Copyright Act 1994. In other instances, however, the practices of museums ignore well-founded principles which underpin the law. It is inappropriate for State-funded institutions to develop ‘flexibilities’ which are contrary to the public interest in culture and the public domain.

(2013) 29(1) Law in Context 55

   
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