How the Recent Copyright Amendments are Helping Us

The Potter Museum of Art recently opened a new exhibition – State of the Union which “explores the relationship of artists to political engagement through a focus on the labour movement and trade unions.” This exhibition is of particular interest to us copyright wise because curator, Jacqueline Doughty, was able to take advantage of the new copyright amendments for libraries, archives, galleries and museums to include documents as part of the exhibition.

The recent copyright amendments which came into effect in December 2017 included new provisions for Libraries and Archives (which also applies to galleries and museums.  One of these provisions relates to the administration of the collection.  Library or museum staff are permitted to make use of copyright material for administrative purposes directly related to the care or control of the collection.  This includes using material as part of an exhibition, making copies of material to be displayed in the exhibition because it the original is too fragile or valuable to be displayed and could be damaged if included in the Exhibition.

Jacqui’s query to us was:

“The Ian Potter Museum of Art will launch an exhibition in late July called State of the Union, which looks at the relationship between artists and trade unions.

Primarily an exhibition of artworks and union material such as banners and posters, there will also be a reading room that includes books and documents for visitors to leaf through.

We cannot use the originals of this reading material, because it will be damaged by handling – we receive up to 4,000 visitors per exhibition – so I am hoping it is permissible in an educational context to make facsimiles for archival purposes, of both the books, and a number of documents I will be borrowing from University of Melbourne archives. The documents are letters, minutes, newsletters from two archive collections – the Victorian Trades Hall archive and the Operative Painters & Decorators Union archive.

Could you advise me on whether it is permissible to copy this items so that our audience can read through them within the gallery?”

Getting permission from the many different copyright owners to make copies for display purposes would have been a time consuming and difficult task.  It would have significantly delayed the running of the exhibition.  In many cases, it may not have been possible to get permission for some documents which may have meant that they couldn’t be included in the Exhibition.  Luckily for Jacqui, the new administration of the collection provision applied meaning that she didn’t have to seek permission to reproduce any of the documents.

This is a great example of how the new provisions are making easier for people to use copyright material and be copyright compliant.

The State of the Union exhibition runs from Tuesday 24 Jul 2018 to Sunday 28 Oct 2018 at the Potter Museum of Art, for more information see

Image – Ian Potter by Paul Ebbage Licenced under CC BY-NC.