fair use

‘Fair Use’

what is ‘fair use’?

‘Fair use’ is an American legal principle that has enabled large enterprises in the US to use copyright material for free. Under Australian law, enterprises currently pay Australian writers, artists, creators, photographers and publishers to use their work, unless it’s for public interest purposes outlined in the legislation, such as reporting news or parody.

A minority of industry players want to change that, and the Productivity Commission in Canberra made recommendations to introduce fair use in Australia.

Australia’s copyright system 

In Australia, we already have a clever, value-for-money educational copying scheme which means school, university and college teachers can copy and share any material they want with their students for a fair payment to creators. This equates to about $17 per school student per year or about $30 per tertiary student, paid for by institutions, not individuals.

This fair payment is returned to publishers, authors, visual artists and content creators, which in turn helps generate new educational content and products for Australian teachers and students. This system does not exist in the US and means that most publishers, writers and authors are not being paid when their material is copied for students in universities.

What exceptions does Australia already have?

Australia has a number of simple rules, or exceptions, about when you can use material that is subject to copyright without having to ask permission.

The main ones are for:

    • news reporting
    • criticism or review
    • parody or satire
    • personal research or study
    • people with disabilities
    • copying by libraries and more (such as legal advice).

Free is not fair – why you should reject fair use

If fair use was introduced into Australia, there would be less Australian content on our screens, on our bookshelves and in our schools and universities. PwC has estimated that introducing fair use in Australia could result in a loss of GDP of more than $1 billion.

Take action by writing to your MP at www.freeisnotfair.org

What happens next?

The Government released the Productivity Commission’s final report on 20 December 2016. The Government invited comments on the final report by 14 February 2017, and responded to the report on 25 August.

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Reg Mombassa [Photo © Nick Cubbin]

Artist Profile

Reg Mombassa

Visual Arts

Copyright is important to me. While I don’t mind people being influenced by my work or appropriating it with permission, blatant unauthorised commercial rip-offs can be irritating and insulting.

Photo by Nick Cubbin

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