Interim rate set in case against universities

May 20, 2019 | Company News

A MESSAGE FROM CEO ADAM SUCKLING

Dear members,

As promised previously, I am writing to update you on progress in the Copyright Tribunal in the actions against Universities Australia (UA) and the Media Monitoring Organisations (MMOs).

Recently, the Copyright Tribunal determined an interim rate that Universities Australia is required to pay in copyright licence fees while the case between Copyright Agency and UA is being heard.

Justice Nye Perram has ordered that Universities continue to pay the previously agreed $32.5m per annum fee with half, $16.25m, to be paid directly to the Copyright Agency to be distributed to its members this calendar year. The remaining 50% of the fee will be held in an interest-bearing account, until the case is finalised.

We lodged the action in November last year after a breakdown in commercial negotiations with Universities Australia for a new licensing agreement beginning in 2019.

UA’s offer simply did not properly reflect the value of our members’ content to the sector which is fundamental to teaching at Australia’s 39 universities, with their 1.4 million students, 60,000 academics and 70,000 professional staff. Our licence enables universities to copy and communicate a vast range and amount of material, provides a significant savings in time and costs, and adds substantial educational value.

The Tribunal has determined the interim rate without reference to the merits of the case. So, there is no indication that this amount will be the final rate and, if a higher rate is set as an outcome of the case, UA will need to make up any difference by way of a back payment, first using the money held in the interest-bearing account.

While it does mean that our members will receive less income over the course of the Tribunal case, the Tribunal’s order does provided certainty around payments throughout the proceedings.

Our priority is threefold. Firstly, to prosecute our case hard so the value of our members’ content is properly remunerated; secondly to ensure a better measurement system is implemented to capture the extremely broad range of usage in universities; and thirdly to ensure the payments to members are received in a timely fashion, so we are able to distribute them as closely as possible to our usual timetable – in June/July and in December 2019.

The next step in the process will be a mediation, with a date still to be set.

Schools

We have concluded our agreement with the schools for a four-year term, which I updated members on in the last issue of Creative Licence.

MMO interim rate update

I also wanted to update you about the action in the Copyright Tribunal relating to three media monitoring organisations (MMOs), who between them pay about $20m in copyright licence fees to use our media members’ editorial content in their businesses.

This revenue supports journalism provided by large and small Australian media companies and is therefore very important for both the Australian community and the sector.

In 2017, the Copyright Agency and CopyCo (representing the major media publishers) developed a new business model for licensing content to Isentia, Meltwater and Streem. The model sought to provide both a fair return for the use of our members’ valuable content and a pricing methodology more appropriate for digital use and how the content is used by the MMOs. Regrettably, the three media monitoring organisations are contesting the fee in the Copyright Tribunal.

While these matters are being heard, the Copyright Tribunal sets an “interim rate” payable by the companies so they can continue to use copyright content legally.

The news is that the Tribunal has now finalised the rates in each case. In the case of the two smaller companies, Meltwater and Streem, the Tribunal maintained the status quo, with allowance for an adjustment in the rate depending on the final outcome of the cases.

In the case of Isentia, the Tribunal took a slightly different approach to its calculations, which will mean a modest reduction in payments to our members.

From this point onwards, the three matters will be heard as one matter and, while there is no timetable for hearing as yet, we anticipate it will happen around mid-2020.

It is important for us to hear from any media companies, who are not members of CopyCo, but who receive MMO fees from us, about direct licensing arrangements for materials.

If you are licensing material directly to any of the media monitoring organisations, please contact our Licensing & Compliance Manager Lucinda Gardiner on 02 9394 7786 or email lgardiner@copyright.com.au.

For any other inquiries, please contact memberservices@copyright.com.au.

I will continue to keep you up to date on progress on these matters and rest assured we are working at all times to protect our members’ rights and ensure the fair payments of copyright licence fees for the invaluable content they produce.

Best regards,

Adam Suckling

CEO, Copyright Agency

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