Note: this page is about public policy issues relating to copyright. For the copyright policy for this website, please see our Copyright Notice.
The basis for Copyright law is to provide a limited monopoly to support investment by those seeking to secure such rights and to provide a fair return to material creators. The rationale behind the monopoly granted by copyright protection is essentially an assertion that absent of an incentive to create people would be disinclined to produce creative works. EFA believes that this rationale is difficult to support with evidence and it is therefore fundamental that copyright laws strike a balance between the interests of rights holders, public institution uses of content and consumer ability to freely engage with works for personal enjoyment, education and creation.
EFA believes that these principles have been substantially undermined over recent decades by increases to the periods of copyright protection and by onerous enforcement mechanisms imposed by well-resourced rights holders to aggressively protect their rights. These increased enforcement and protection measures have been favoured over the evolution of content business practices to cater for changing technological and market circumstances. The inherent inflexibility within Australia’s copyright regime, coupled with increased enforcement and protection measures, has meant other industries, particularly within the IT, education and cultural sectors, are confined to practices lagging well behind current technological developments.
Furthermore, the continual extensions to copyright periods (such as the extension from 50 years after the death of the author to 70 years for certain works as a result of the 2006 Australia-US Free Trade Agreement) ensure that these periods now bear no resemblance to the original objectives of copyright to provide protection for a limited period before returning materials to the public domain.
Aggressive enforcement actions and inflexibility in the face of changing technological and market conditions, particularly within the music and movie industries, have led to the discrediting of the entire copyright regime in the eyes of many Australians, particularly younger people. The complexity of the present regime, and references to out-dated technologies, increases disregard for copyright law as being “out of touch” with current realities. The implications of the discrediting of this area of law should not be underestimated as it feeds into a wider disenchantment with the legal system and a general lack of political engagement that has the potential for negative effects on the operation of Australian democracy.
EFA also rejects the assertion that unauthorised copying of copyrighted content represents a serious threat to the continued profitability of content creators and owners, thereby threatening the ongoing investment in new content creation and distribution. On the contrary, there is strong evidence that the content industries remain strongly profitable, despite the significant changes in technological and market conditions over the last 10-15 years, and EFA believes that promoting greater legitimate access to content will lead to increased revenue for the content industries.
Furthermore, EFA believes that a core issue relating to the profitable dissemination of copyright material has been price differentiation between jurisdictions that produce content (such as the United States) and Australia as a large consumer of electronic media. It is also important to note that this price inequity is exacerbated by the relative inaccessibility of foreign content within Australia which has fuelled the younger generation to view content via (potentially) infringing channels (such as streaming and/or downloading copyright protected material).
Additionally, these novel technologies cause issues with the traditional intention of the application of copyright law. For example, a strict copyright regime applying to computer software impedes the software’s very functionality by restricting the number of skilled, independent programmers who can analyse and correct the source code. This in return impedes further innovation and creativity in the relevant field and negatively impacts the product the consumer receives. Another example is copyrighted scientific literature. Scientific literature was intended to disseminate knowledge and information and thereby promote further innovation. Restricting access to and copying of scientific literature only further impedes innovation and progress.
EFA believes that there is clear evidence that the vast bulk of Australian consumers are very willing to consume content legally, where it is available at a fair price, and in a convenient and timely manner. EFA therefore believes that the balance of Australia’s copyright regime should be adjusted significantly to ensure that the rights of consumers and other content users to access content according to the principles of fairness, convenience and timeliness are greatly enhanced. EFA believes that this approach will, in the long run, be of benefit to all parties, including content owners.
EFA therefore believes that a broad, flexible, technology-neutral Fair Use exception needs to be introduced into Australian copyright law, and that this will be of great benefit to Australian, consumers, educators, creators and content owners.
Continued failure to address these issues will continue to negatively impact the creation of culture and innovation in that it restricts consumers and potential creators from interacting with copyrighted works.
Digital Rights Management
International Trade Agreements
Marrakesh Treaty for the Visually-Impaired
Copyright Amendment (Disability Access & Other Measures) Bill 2017
- Senate DFAT TPP Inquiry – 161031
- JSCOT TPP Inquiry – 160317
- Copyright Amendments submission – 160212
- Productivity Commission – IP Inquiry – submission – 151217
- Copyright Code submission – 150323
- KAFTA JSCOT – submission – 140616
- ALRC Copyrev – submission – 121203
- TPP – submission – 120629
- ALRC Copyright Review ToR – submission – 120427
- Letter to Roxon re Optus TV Now – 120228
- Letter to Trade Ministers re ACTA – 080916
- Copyright Act Review – submission – 080229