Things change rapidly in the world of copyright in Australia – so here’s the latest round up to bring you right up to speed.

Copyright amendments

The Government is about to pass amendments to the Copyright Act, supported by the Copyright Agency and other content creator representatives, which will significantly increase access to copyright material, while ensuring that the rights of writers and publishers continue to be respected. This includes:

  • making it even simpler for students to access a huge range of content,
  • allowing libraries to exhibit more material to the Australian public including historical manuscripts – from celebrity letters and diaries held by the National, State and Territory libraries and archives, to theses from universities
  • enabling people with disabilities to access copyright material more easily

The changes remove unnecessary red tape and are a sensible step in ensuring Australia’s copyright system continues to evolve with developments in technology, content creation and consumer behaviour.

Screenrights, Copyright Agency, the National Copyright Unit for the schools sector and Universities Australia worked together to develop the joint proposal to government. Read more.

Safe Harbour

On 21 April, the Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield announced that further consultation would take place regarding expanding Australia’s ‘safe harbour’ provisions. ‘Safe harbour’ currently provides protection to internet service providers from being sued when people using their services infringe copyright – provided they take steps to remove infringing content. Proposals are before the Government to expand these provisions to online service providers such as Google and Facebook. Content groups, including ourselves and those in the music, media, entertainment and sports industries have raised concerns about the potential for expanded provisions to make licensing and enforcement harder, particularly given experiences overseas has led to reviews in the US and Europe. The Department of Communications has been asked to consult and provide advice to the Government by early June.

2017 Triennial Review of Collecting Societies Code of Conduct

Australian copyright collecting societies report annually on their compliance with the Collecting Societies Code of Conduct to the Code Reviewer, a former judge of the Federal Court. In addition, the Code Reviewer invites submissions every three years on the contents and operation of the Code itself. The Code Reviewer’s report of the triennial review is now available here.

The Copyright Agency’s Future Fund

Last week we wrote to members to reiterate information about the Copyright Agency’s Future Fund. The Future Fund is there to ensure there is a footing for the Agency to continue operating and provide a source of funds for litigation and advocacy in the event the government proceeds to introduce “Fair Use” copyright exceptions, as recommended by the Productivity Commission. Revenues to copyright owners declined rapidly in Canada when similar proposals were adopted, having a detrimental impact on Canadian publishing and the prospects for writers and publishers there.

Our Chair Kim Williams wrote an Opinion piece on this issue which was published in the Fairfax media. Read the full article.

You can also read a very recent comment from a Canadian independent publisher about the impact felt there.