Attorney General on Protection of Copyright

Copyright Advocacy

In a recent speech, the Attorney General outlined some of his views on protection for copyright and other intellectual property.

In his speech to the Australian International Movie Convention on 14 October 2013, the Attorney General made the following comments about intellectual property:

As a lawyer and as a policy-maker, it is my strong belief that the principles of intellectual property law and most particularly, the principles that protect the rights of content creators are not a function of the platforms of the media through which that content is delivered. The Copyright Act may be almost half a century old and, as you know, it is being reviewed at the moment but the principles underlying the recognition and protection of intellectual property rights did not change with the invention of the internet and of social media.

Copyright and piracy

As I said earlier, I want to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to content industries. Not only do they contribute to our economy – they build a culture of innovation and artistic endeavour in Australia.

An effective legal framework for protection and enforcement of copyright is fundamental to sustaining today’s creative content industries and importantly, the cultural development of our nation. Australia already has a robust legal framework for the protection of copyright. Despite an extensive menu of criminal offences applicable under copyright law, still the problems of piracy and unauthorised use remain.

I understand that content industries are facing challenges at the business level; some that are undoubtedly positive and create new opportunities. But some that are less so. This means we are all facing challenges at the policy level. The internet has led to, and continues to drive structural adjustments to content industries. New technologies are changing how governments should respond and Australia is not the only country grappling with these changes.

In fact, copyright is not the only issue being grappled with by industries involved with new technologies and the digital economy. Issues in my portfolio raise challenges, including privacy, classification, security and crime.

There are many challenges in the copyright space but I am optimistic. In this changing digital world, we must look for the opportunities but in reviewing the intellectual property laws, as I said earlier on, my very strong disposition is on the side of the content creators.

Legislative framework

I note that the content industries have asked for a new set of copyright laws that protect their works from theft and piracy – laws that work in the digital age. But in times of turbulent change, industry cannot solely rely on the Government to fix all of the problems that arise.

Protection of copyright materials is not simply a matter of law or government intervention – it is just as importantly a matter of practice. You know better than I of the agility modern successful businesses need, and I am pleased to say, you have been able to demonstrate.

We are all awaiting the Australian Law Reform Commission’s final report which is to be provided to the Government by 30 November 2013. The Government will consider the Commission’s findings and any recommendations carefully but in considering those recommendations, I will bring to that process the views I have expressed in this speech.

Story in The Australian on the speech here.

For information about the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry, see here.

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