Another year, another fabulous Copyright Forum

Dr Rebecca Giblin discusses Ptolemaic astronomy
Dr Rebecca Giblin discusses Ptolemaic astronomy.

What do Ptolemaic astronomy, copyright reform, and (of course) monkeys have in common? More than you might think, as attendees of our Copyright Forum 2016 on March 18 found out.

Despite the unpredictable Canberra weather (which threw us some curveballs) 2016 turned out to be our biggest Forum ever, with over 150 attendees there on the day. And what a day it was - the quality and depth of the scholarship, insight and discussion made it one of the most exciting copyright events of the year (if we do say so ourselves). The good news for those unable to attend, either in person or virtually - all the talks, as well as a complete record of the day, are now available on our Youtube channel.

Looking back across the day, the primary theme that emerged was the many difficulties of copyright reform - the difficulty of achieving reform, the difficulty of crafting reform, and even the difficulty of knowing what reforms are necessary. This theme began with the marvelous opening keynote by Professor Ian Hargreaves looking at the process surrounding his May 2011 report for the UK government: "Digital Opportunity: a review of intellectual property and growth". He discussed how political realities had influenced his recommendations in the report, including his decision not to directly recommend the introduction of a fair use exception. He also discussed how Australia's circumstances differ, how our copyright legislation is more advanced, and how fair use may work for us.

The second keynote of the day by Professor Kenneth Crews was equally fascinating and drew many questions from the audience. Professor Crews continued the discussion of how Australia's copyright regime compares on an international scale, showing that Australia's library and archive exceptions were very much in line with global trends, but that ours were some of the more complete (if lengthy) available worldwide. He also had praise for the proposed amendments in the exposure draft of the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill (CADAOM Bill), and their foresight, for example, in attempting to make room for best practice preservation for Australia's collections. He, too, talked about the role fair use might play in supplementing these laws, filling the gaps and providing flexibility where the political process proves too unwieldy for reform.

The one disappointment was that one of our most anticipated keynotes - the Hon Senator Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications and the Arts - was unable to attend at the last minute. However, being up all night debating Senate voting reform gives him a pretty good excuse. The Minister sent through an apology video, and we hope to be able to have him attend next year's event. 

Other highlights from the presentations and discussion throughout the day include:

  • A reminder of the complexity of copyright for content delivery platforms and the importance (and difficulty) of obtaining evidence to support reforms with the launch of the Strategy&'s Digital Growth: How the internet is fueling the growth of creative industries in Australia.
  • The detailed analysis of the CADAOM Bill by experts from the four primary affected sectors, with Bruce Maguire of Vision Australia representing the disability sector, Geoff Hinchcliffe of the State Records Authority of New South Wale representing libraries and archives, and Carolyn Dalton from Policy Australia stepping in at short notice to represent the education and tech sectors.
  • InternetNZ's James Ting-Edwards providing us with insight into upcoming copyright reform in New Zealand, including the likely effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the potential for positive outcomes through the upcoming review.
  • Trish Hepworth's copyright year in review, which reminded us what copyright had to say about marital aids, teddy bears and monkeys in 2015.
  • New ideas on how to best recognise and protect the information commons and the public domain from Australian academics Dr Robert Cunningham and Prof Graham Greenleaf.
  • Perhaps best of all - the final panel of non-lawyer copyright experts reimagining copyright and suggesting what it might look like if they had the power to re-write it from scratch. Put together by our own board member Dr Rebecca Giblin and including wonderful input from panelists Christy Dena, Stephen Young, David Court and Pia Waugh, it was an intelligent and inspiring way to end the day that tied in the aforementioned Ptolemaic astronomy, copyright and the important role of creators in society.

More details on the Forum, including the full program and speakers biographies, are available on our website.

We would once again like to thank all our speakers, our primary sponsors - Google, the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee, and (as always) the National Library of Australia - and everyone who attended. 

We look forward to seeing you all in Canberra again next year.

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