This week, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) released a Discussion Paper as part of its review of Australia’s Copyright laws in the context of the Digital Economy. As had been previously indicated, this Discussion Paper recommends the introduction of the principle of fair use into Australia’s copyright regime.
As ALRC Commissioner Jill McKeough said in their media release:
“The reforms proposed include the introduction of a broad, flexible exception for fair use of copyright material and the consequent repeal of many of the current exceptions in the Copyright Act, so that the copyright regime becomes more flexible and adaptable.”
EFA is very pleased to see the ALRC recommend the adoption of fair use in Australia and has been campaigning, alongside other other organisations, such as the Australian Digital Alliance, for this outcome. The Draft Terms of Reference for the ALRC review did not include consideration of fair use, however EFA and a number of other organisations successfully lobbied for the consideration of fair use to be included in the review’s Final Terms of Reference.
The introduction of fair use into Australia’s copyright law would have a number of very significant benefits for Australian consumers, creators, technological innovators and the education sector, including:
- the introduction of much-needed flexibility into the Copyright Act that would allow for the introduction of innovative new technologies and services without the need for legislative amendment;
- the removal of the absurd current restrictions which, for example, make it legal for individuals to copy music from a CD to their smartphone OR tablet, but not to both;
- encouraging artistic creativity by allowing remixing of copyright material for artistic purposes (currently this is only permitted for the purposes of parody and satire);
- removing the need for expensive statutory licences (currently worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year) that cover the use of copyright material within the education sector, much of which is material that was produced with public funding;
- allowing for the development of Australian-based internet services, such as search engines, which are currently prohibited, and;
- providing a partial solution to the problem of ‘orphan works’ (copyright material for which the copyright owner cannot be identified or contacted).
Recent studies by Lateral Economics on behalf of the Australian Digital Alliance estimate that the introduction of Fair Use in Australia would potentially result in productivity gains of up to $600 million per year.
Although Fair Use is a central concept in US Copyright Law, large corporate content owners (many of which are US-based) are strongly opposed to its introduction in Australia, and will continue to lobby hard against it.
If Fair Use is to become a reality in Australia, a strong campaign will therefore need to be waged to counter these corporate interests. As a net importer of content, it is very much in Australia’s national interest for the introduction of Fair Use.
For more examples of how Australia’s current copyright law is broken, please visit the Copywrong website.