The Charter isn’t just a piece of legislation. It’s also a literary work. At least, that’s the view of the crazy world of copyright law (and prerogative law), which also takes the view that all works – including legislation – made under the direction or control of the Crown is owned by the Crown. So, the Charter isn’t owned by George Williams or Andrew Gaze or the rest.
Anyone who wants to ‘copy’ the Charter needs permission from the relevant Crown, in this case Victoria. There is a statutory defence for the provision of single copies to a ‘person’ for a ‘particular purpose’, but only where any charge is limited to cost recovery. There are also traditional – albeit very murky – defences like fair dealing. It doesn’t matter that the Victorian government – and Austlii – give the thing away for free. If you want to do the same, you need a licence.
So, for someone like me, who is co-authoring a book on human rights that will be charged at more than a cost-recovery basis (although not much more), I knew I had to ask the Crown (or risk the book getting pulped.) In this case, I was told, there would be a fee, which depended on the amount of the legislation extracted, the number of copies of the book and the expected price. After I told them that I thought the book would quote the whole Charter – a rather short document – at one point or another and supplying the (commercially confidential) guesswork about sales, they came back to me with a quote. The cost would be $7,335. No, that’s not a typo.
On my calculations, that’s a charge of over $1 per word! Continue reading