Good news: Taiwan creates a new fair use of copyright material; bad news: it’s tiny

Too often we assume that copyright is something that only concerns Western nations like the US and EU. But it’s important to remember that copyright has been exported all around the world. Moreover, when Western nations make copyright worse, they then try to convince other countries to adopt the same bad ideas, for example through the terms of trade deals. But occasionally, nations outside the copyright mainstream manage to make some moves in the opposite direction, adding benefits for ordinary people rather than for the copyright industry. For example, in Taiwan there’s a welcome change to the law in this area, reported here by Focus Taiwan:

A bill to amend the Copyright Act to enable the fair use of copyright-protected work by schoolteachers as teaching materials in their virtual courses without prior permission was passed by the Legislature Friday.

The amendment will exempt schoolteachers from obtaining prior permission to display, use, or transmit copyrighted texts and other materials “within a reasonable scope” and “where necessary for the purpose of teaching in schools” in their remote classes.

This is just an update to the existing law, expanding fair use of copyrighted materials from face-to-face teaching to classes taught online. It’s hardly a massive liberalisation. The same is true of another amendment to the Taiwanese Copyright Act that was passed to enable the National Central Library (NCL) to create digital editions of the physical books that it holds. However, the Ministry of Economic Affairs noted:

the NCL would be forbidden from digitizing books already released by publishers with digital versions and that the NCL’s digital collections would only be accessible through computers at the national library.

In other words, as usual, publishers’ profits are put before the public’s right to access knowledge in the modern format of ebooks, never mind on their own devices. Sadly, this unfair and almost unquestioned bias towards Big Content is something that seems to be universal in the copyright world, whether in the West or elsewhere.

Featured image by Heeheemalu.

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