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Australian creators launch campaign against proposed copyright reform

By | Published on Tuesday 6 December 2016


Collecting societies representing the creators and owners of literary, artistic, journalistic and musical copyrights in Australia have launched a new social media led campaign called ‘Changed My Life’ which, in no small part, is pre-empting moves to expand the copyright exceptions system in the county to be more like that in the US.

As previously reported, earlier this year Australia’s Productivity Commission made a number of pretty radical proposals for copyright reform, including a significant cut to copyright terms. The country’s government quickly distanced itself from that idea, but it seems that rights owners now fear that other proposals to introduce a US-style fair use concept into the country’s copyright law could be taken on by politicians next year.

Most copyright systems provide a list of scenarios where people can make use of copyright protected material without licence, and without paying any royalties. Quite how these exceptions work varies from country to country. The Australian system is quite like the UK system, often referred to as ‘fair dealing’, with a more precise list of scenarios in which copyright exceptions apply, rather than the more nebulous concept of ‘fair use’, which is found in American copyright law.

Earlier this year, the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry responded to the Productivity Commission’s report by saying: “Licensing, not exceptions to copyright, drives innovation. Innovation is best achieved through licensing agreements between content owners and users, including technological innovators … It is no coincidence that those who champion the ‘flexibility’ of fair use exceptions/defences typically are those whose business models depend on unfettered access to copyright works”.

Music industry collecting society APRA/AMCOS has now joined up with the Copyright Agency, which collects for the book, art and media industries, to launch the ‘Changed My Life’ campaign, which is based around famous faces – including actors, presenters, authors and, from the world of music, Reg Mombassa from Mental As Anything and Sam Margin from The Rubens – discussing the song or book that changed their life.

The consumer-facing message is to support creators by buying their work, crediting their work, and asking for permission before using their work. Though for the political audience the message is “don’t mess with our fair dealing rules”. Oh, that and something about safe harbours, obviously.

Launching the campaign yesterday, Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling told reporters: “Draft recommendations made by the Productivity Commission include the implementation of ‘fair use’ – an American legal principle that has enabled large enterprises in the US to use copyright material for free. This, along with the proposed expansion of the safe harbour provision, would see Australian artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers not receiving fair payment for their work and make it substantially harder to make a living”.

Meanwhile APRA/AMCOS boss Brett Cottle added: “At a time when copyright is working in practice as it should, and just when the culturally-rich and economically vital business of music is getting back on its feet, it’s difficult to fathom why measures such as those relating to safe harbour expansion or so-called ‘fair use’ should be contemplated by government”.

The campaign’s website is here. Premium CMU subscribers can check out this article explaining more about fair use in the context on the infamous ‘dancing baby’ case. But don’t go sharing it with non-premium users now will you? Fuck fair use, I say.

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