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Creatives: IP report threatens Australia’s creative economy

December 22, 2016

By Colin Mann

The Australian Copyright Council – an independent, non-profit organisation which represents the trade bodies for professional artists and content creators working in Australia’s creative industries and Australia’s major copyright collecting societies – has criticised the Productivity Commission’s Final Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements, suggesting it ignores evidence demonstrating the potential cost and damage to Australia’s creative economy.

“At a time when copyright stakeholders have been working together to achieve sensible reforms, the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into IP Arrangements has been deeply divisive. This is regrettable,” said CEO, Fiona Phillips.

“Australia is a clever country brimming with local talent. Talent that benefits from a robust intellectual property infrastructure,” declared Kate Haddock, Chair of the Council. “Yet the Commission has a fixed view that as a net importer of intellectual property, Australia should only aspire to a low level of intellectual property protection.”

“Such a view lacks vision and will not nurture local creators or drive innovation. The Inquiry has been conducted in a way that seems calculated to offend. Headings entitled Copy (not) right are not what stakeholders expect from an independent government agency,” she suggested.

According to the Council, the Final Report proposes unsubstantiated radical reforms.

For example:

  • A US-style ‘fair use’ exception which would broaden the unremunerated uses of copyright material in Australia;
  • Expansion of the safe harbour provisions to all online service providers;
  • Making contracts that restrict use of copyright exceptions unenforceable;
  • Making it clear that circumvention of geoblocking technology is not an infringement of copyright; and
  • Repealing parallel importation restrictions on books

Phillips noted that the Commission’s ‘finding’ that the average commercial life of most copyright material was less than five years had erroneously been used to substantiate its recommendations for copyright reform.

For example, one of the ‘key points’ in the Report was that: “Copyright is broader in scope and longer in duration than needed — innovative firms, universities and schools, and consumers bear the cost.

− Introducing a system of user rights, including the (well-established) principles–based fair use exception, would go some way to redress this imbalance.”

“Fair use is not a copyright cure all. The Report fails to identify what problem it is trying to solve and ignores evidence demonstrating the potential cost and damage of introducing fair use to Australia,” she argued.

“We remain concerned that the real beneficiaries of such an amendment will be foreign tech giants. Not Australian creators and consumers. We urge the Government to reject the PC’s recommendations and to instead foster a collaborative approach to copyright reform in Australia,” she concluded.

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