Researchers to shed light on contentious copyright issues

October 23, 2015

New research will shed light on two contentious topics: How social media impacts on copyright; and copyright applications to Indigenous Traditional Knowledge.

Researchers from Adelaide and Queensland have been awarded the inaugural Copyright Agency Research Fellowships of $20,000 each to advanced critical thinking in this area.

The winners of the two fellowships are:

Professor Melissa de Zwart for her research proposal “How Does Copyright Function in an Instagram World”

Dr Dimitrios Eliades for his research proposal “Copyright and Indigenous Traditional Knowledge”

Professor de Zwart is a Professor at Adelaide Law School. She says: “The line between commercial and personal accounts [on social media] has become blurred by the ‘sponsorship’ of popular accounts. Further, feeds are full of ‘suggested’ accounts to follow. Professional artists, musicians and photographers must now establish online followings to advertise their creations, leaving their work open to reposting, cutting and pasting, often without acknowledgement.

“All of these platforms are commercially operated and are subject to terms of service which are rarely read or understood. Even if they are read, users have no opportunity to renegotiate their terms. Users are often very happy to have their material copied, particularly if it might boost the number of likes or followers they have, but may be left feeling dissatisfied where no revenue follows (see for example, the recent exhibition by Richard Prince of photos copied from Instagram and offered for sale for hundreds of thousands of dollars). How, then, is copyright to operate in such a contractual environment?”

“I am really grateful to the Copyright Agency for providing essential support to me to undertake this project…to assist creators by providing practical guidance regarding how copyright and contracts operate on these platforms in terms of republication, repurposing and reuse of their creative works,” Professor de Zwart says.

Dr Dimitrios Eliades is a practicing barrister and published author in Queensland. His research will explore the Copyright Act and its application to Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, an area he describes as having “shortcomings” especially in regards to community ownership of works.

Judges for the Research Fellowships were copyright and IP specialists: Michael Fraser (UTS), Lesley Power (SBS), Jeremy Thorpe (PwC) and Charles Alexander (former partner at Minters).

The judges remarked that “These two proposals address the ancient form of culture and the contemporary. Social media touches on the lives of more and more people daily while the use of cultural materials is a live issue in cultural areas – it is of commercial relevance and important to our economy as a growth area.”

The Copyright Agency Fellowships were established to mark the agency’s 40th anniversary in 2014, honouring the courage and imagination of the author, publisher and copyright lawyer founders that came together in 1974 to stand up for creators.

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