ALRC recommends Fair Use

The ALRC Copyright and the Digital Economy inquiry has concluded with a recommendation to introduce a flexible fair use exception as a defence to copyright infringement. 

While the report is not expected to be made public until February, the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, took advantage of a question in the senate to outline the major recommendations.  These include: the introduction of a flexible fair-use exception;  retaining and reforming some of the existing specific exemptions; clarifying the statutory licensing scheme; limiting the remedies for use of orphaned works; reforming broadcasting exemptions and limiting contracting-out terms.

The ADA strongly welcomes the ALRC proposals.  Our submissions to the inquiry drew on evidence from our members to show the benefits of copyright reform to education, libraries, cultural institutions, the internet industries, consumers and the blind and visually impaired. 

Reform of our outdated copyright system will ensure that it remains relevant.  By removing some of the absurdities of the current system and giving it the flexibility to adapt to change, we preserve a strong and robust copyright system. 

If these reforms are implemented they will promote innovation, support public interest projects, encourage and protect creators and position Australia competitively in the digital age. 

The full text of the Attorney-General’s comments, taken from Hansard, are extracted below. 

Senator SMITH (Western Australia): My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. Can the Attorney-General advise the Senate of the Australian Law Reform Commission recommendations in relation to copyright law reform?

Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General): The Australian Law Reform Commission has just completed a major inquiry into copyright and the digital economy. It provided the final report to the government on Monday. The ALRC inquiry is the most significant review of the Copyright Act since the act came into operation in 1968, and has attracted strong interest with over 850 submissions. The government wishes to thank those who contributed to the work of the inquiry by making submissions. The inquiry examined whether exceptions and statutory licences in the Copyright Act are adequate and appropriate in the digital environment, and whether further exceptions to copyright should be recommended. Among other things, the ALRC was asked to consider whether further exemptions should recognise a fair-use exception in relation to copyrighted material. The ALRC has made a number of recommendations arising from the inquiry. It has recommended the introduction of a flexible fair-use exception as a defence to copyright infringement. It has also recommended retaining and reforming some of the existing specific exemptions and introducing certain new specific exemptions; amending the act to clarify the statutory licensing scheme; limiting the remedies available for copyright infringement to encourage the use of orphaned works; reforming broadcasting exemptions and amending the act to limit contracting-out terms. The government will be responding to the ALRC report in the new year.

Senator SMITH (Western Australia): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Why is the appropriate protection of intellectual property rights important to Australia's creative industries?

Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General): Australia's creative industries are not just a vital part of our culture but a thriving sector of our economy. In 2011, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that the creative industries in Australia were worth $93 billion, which is around 6.6 per cent of GDP. The industries employ 900,000 Australians or about 8.8 per cent of the workforce, which makes them Australia's seventh largest industry—bigger than construction and bigger than retail. It is important that, just like other workers out in our economy, those who make our great films and record our great albums are entitled to the fruits of their efforts. Without strong, robust copyright laws, they are at risk of being cheated of the fair compensation for their creativity, which is their due and the Australian government will continue to protect them. (Time expired)

Senator SMITH (Western Australia): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the Attorney-General indicate the government's approach to the protection of intellectual property?

Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General): Yes, I can. I want to reaffirm the government's commitment to the content industries. It is the government's strong view that the fundamental principles of intellectual property law, which protect the rights of content creators, have not changed merely because of the emergence of new media and new platforms. The principles underlying intellectual property law and the values which acknowledge the rights of creative people are not a function of the platform on which that creativity is expressed. The principles did not change with the invention of the internet and the emergence of social media. So in this changing digital world, the government's response to the ALRC report will be informed by the view that the rights of content owners and content creators ought not to be lessened and that they are entitled to continue to benefit from their intellectual property.

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