Copyright breaches land group in trouble
Kate BensonSeptember 1, 2010
An anti-vaccination group is under fire for allegedly breaching copyright laws by selling newspaper and medical journal articles online without permission from the authors.
The Australian Vaccination Network, which was the subject of a public warning issued by the Health Care Complaints Commission last month, withdrew 11 information packs from its website yesterday after complaints from authors.
The packs, which were selling for up to $128, included home-made books filled with articles photocopied from journals around the world, information on drugs taken from MIMS, the medical guide used by doctors and nurses, and copies of brochures inserted in medication boxes by pharmaceutical companies.
Under the Copyright Act, articles can be copied for personal research or for use by students but cannot be disseminated widely or sold.
For most works, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator or 70 years after the work was first published but none of the authors contacted by the Herald knew their work was being sold.
Helen Signy, a freelance medical writer, said: ''I've never even heard of this group and I certainly did not give consent to have my work reproduced.
''That article is at least 15 years old so is not based on current information.''
Mary-Anne Toy, from The Age newspaper, said she did not recall giving the network permission to sell her work and would seek payment. Leigh Dayton, a science reporter at The Australian newspaper, was also unaware her story was being sold.
Kate Haddock, a copyright lawyer, said those found breaching the law could face substantial damages.
Damages would increase if articles were reproduced in a way which would cause readers to think less of the writers, Ms Haddock said.
The network is also under investigation by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing after reports it solicited donations without a fundraising licence. If found guilty, the network will no longer be allowed to operate as a charity.
The president of the network, Meryl Dorey, said she was unaware she had breached copyright but accepted there had been problems with her licence.
''We've made mistakes but they've been honest mistakes. They've been out of ignorance rather than fraudulence,'' she said.
Yesterday she asked her supporters for $150,000 to fight the HCCC claiming it ''stepped outside of its jurisdiction to persecute a non-profit organisation''.