A landmark decision on the role of ISP’s and their legal responsibilities has been made by the Australian courts today. ISP’s, the court has found are not liable for their users use of the Internet.
See the story in the SMH here
You may wonder why this is of relevance to Libraries, well because as has been shown by the UK Digital Economy Bill, a public institution that gives users Internet access would also have been as liable to fines and disconnections as an ISP. Thus Libraries could have found themselves liable for all the actions of their public users, which would have made providing access impossible.
Of course Libraries already take some responsibility for their users, but in the same way it is impossible to maintain a watch on a photocopier to check that a user doesn’t photocopy more than 10% of a book, it would have been impossible to check the copyright actions of every user on a public Internet terminal. Admittedly it would be impossible for a public user to download a movie (because of the size and time constraints), but there are many copyright works which are smaller and more accessible. There are a large number of brand new books that are in copyright which are available on the Internet, controlling the download of these reasonably small text files would be difficult.
All libraries can do in this matter is to draw attention to copyright law by signage and education, as we have done with photocopiers for many years.
We should be wary of any further legal attempt to find companies and public institutions liable for the uncontrollable actions of their users or customers.