Copyright Agency takes NSW Government to the Copyright Tribunal

Dear members,

I am writing to inform you that the Copyright Agency has been regrettably forced to take the NSW Government to the Copyright Tribunal to ensure that the Government pays a fair rate for use of our members’ material by hundreds of thousands of public servants across NSW.

The NSW Government is the only government in Australia refusing to pay a fair rate for using the copyright material of our members. It has not paid a fair rate for the last five years.

The NSW Government’s own survey of its employees shows that during the last five years, NSW public servants have copied and shared up to 200 million pages of our members’ copyright material without payment.

Even though we believe that the NSW Government’s survey is deficient and underestimates copying, we have sought to resolve this dispute sensibly by drawing on the data from the survey. We are seeking to charge NSW the same rate per employee as every other state in the country.

We have sought to settle this issue through commercial negotiations on reasonable terms four times in the last two years but the NSW Department of Justice, which is representing the NSW Government, has refused to come to an agreement on the terms that every other state has agreed to.

Many of the NSW Government’s 200,000 employees use and distribute copyright material such as newspaper and magazine articles; science, technology, health and engineering journal articles; photos and illustrations, in the course of their work every day. 

This material provides a vital source of information that benefits departments and informs decisions across government.  

We are proud that this material provides an important input into serving the people of NSW – but we believe that our members should receive fair payment for the use of this work.

It is an accepted standard that governments pay a market rate to cover the use and sharing of copyright material and the use of such material is covered by the Copyright Agency licence. However, the NSW Government has offered to pay just a small percentage of the market rate.

This refusal to pay a fair rate hurts Australian writers, journalists, cartoonists, photographers, publishers and visual artists, and harms their ability to invest, innovate and develop more, new Australian content. On average, Australian writers are paid only $13,000 a year.

There is a simple win-win solution available, which is for the NSW Government to come to a commercial agreement in line with the Commonwealth and all other state and territory governments.

The unnecessary, and undesirable, alternative is for the Copyright Agency to represent its members rights in an expensive legal action which will waste a huge amount of public resources. 

The last such dispute between the NSW Government and the Copyright Agency took 10 years to conclude – in the Copyright Agency’s favour –  and cost millions of dollars.

I want to assure our members that we will keep you informed of this issue as it develops.

The Copyright Agency has a proud history of standing up for creators and, while we resist legal action, we will pursue it when our members’ rights are being disregarded.

If you require further information about this issue, please get in touch by emailing

You can also read our media release on this issue here.
All the best,

Adam Suckling