Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), Australia’s leading digital rights advocacy organisation, has long campaigned for positive reform to Australia’s Copyright Act.

EFA believes that Australia’s Copyright Act is unnecessarily inflexible and no longer fit for purpose in an increasingly digital world. This inflexibility means that technological and service innovations are often unable to be brought to market in Australia, thereby hampering the development of Australia’s digital economy.

The widespread popularity of US-based social media platforms has ensured that most Australian consumers are routinely and comfortably operating within a fair use-based copyright context, thereby creating a significant disconnect between current societal practice and the local law.

There has been much discussion from both major parties in the lead up to this election about innovation, agility and the need for Australia to adapt to a ‘transitioning economy’.

Yet, there has been little to no discussion about the necessity of modernising Australia’s Copyright Act.

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) issued a report – Copyright and the Digital Economy – in November 2013, which included 30 recommendations for reform, centred on the introduction of a broad, flexible fair use exception.

The Department of Communications published draft legislation in December 2015 which involved a number of welcome, if limited, steps towards the introduction of a broad, flexible fair use exception.

In April 2016, the Productivity Commission issued a draft report from its inquiry into Australia’s Intellectual Property arrangements, which supported the ALRC’s recommendation for the introduction of a broad, flexible fair use exception into Australia’s Copyright Act.

EFA therefore believes that it is long past time that meaningful progress is made towards implementing the reforms recommended by the ALRC, particularly the introduction of fair use, that we believe are critical to ensuring that Australia’s copyright framework is appropriate for the digital age and is aligned with existing societal expectations.

EFA has received commitments from the Greens and a number of smaller parties in relation to support for the introduction of a broad, flexible fair use exception into Australia’s Copyright Act (see the various responses to our Election Policy Questionnaire).

EFA therefore calls on the two major parties - Liberal and Labor - should they form the next Australian government:

  • to promptly introduce legislation as proposed by the Department of Communications in December 2015 that addresses unpublished works, extends the safe harbour scheme and facilitates the introduction of the Marrakesh Treaty for Visually-Impaired persons.
  • to promptly introduce legislation that will implement the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform's 2013 report - Copyright and the Digital Economy - particularly the introduction of a broad, flexible fair use exception into Australia's Copyright Act.

These reforms will not only bring Australian copyright law into line with current societal practice, they will also provide a necessary step in the development of a framework that can support Australia in becoming an ‘innovative’ and ‘agile’ twenty-first century economy.

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