Copyright is Broken
And with that bald statement, a new site, supported by the ADA, sets about exposing some of the absurdities of our current copyright laws.
You want to copy a VHS to your tablet? Not a problem.
But if you’ve upgraded your VHS collection to DVDs, like everyone else in this world, then tough luck. If you copy that DVD to your tablet, in the words of the video, you’re ‘fully breached bro’.
The examples come through thick and fast, from the everyday (you want to quote TV while running the local trivia night? That’s a breach) to technical stupidities (turns out librarians need to be time travellers).
There was no shortage of examples to choose from explained Dan Ilic, the well-known Australian comedian who is the creative powerhouse behind the project, and with accessible humour, the messages are simple.
‘I’ve tried really hard to make lawyers sound human’ he says modestly. ‘When I was initially thinking about the Copocrisy Videos I assumed they would be more dense and complex to tell. But it turns out they’re not. In fact they’re rather simple.’
Unlike the USA, Australia does not have a ‘fair use’ exception. So in order to use copyright material you need to fall under one of their specific exceptions, fair dealing, exceptions for libraries and archives or some fiendishly specific exceptions for personal use.
‘The trouble with Australian copyright law’ explains Trish Hepworth, executive officer of the Australian Digital Alliance (ADA) ‘is that in order to use any copyright work you need to either get permission or fall under a specific exception. The exceptions are sprinkled through the act, written in incomprehensible fashion and haven’t kept pace with the times. So nobody but specialists even know what they are. And then, as a copyright lawyer, you find yourself explaining to your Grandma that emailing her a copy of her granddaughter learning to read would be a breach of copyright and you realise just how ridiculous the system has become.’
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is currently looking at Australia’s copyright exceptions, and in their Discussion Paper they suggested the introduction of fair use. The ALRC will hand their final report to government on 30 November and it’s widely anticipated that fair use will be their final recommendation. However organisations advocating for copyright reform, such as the ADA, who sponsored the Creationistas project, face an uphill battle to have the recommendations implemented. They face strong opposition coming from as far afield as the United States, groups such as the US movie undustry, who work under fair use at home, protesting against changing Australia’s legislation.
There are, however, growing calls for copyright reform, and after watching the absurdities portrayed in the videos, it is not hard to see why. The ADA’s members include universities, schools, libraries, tech sector companies, charitable organisations and cultural bodies, all of whom support fair use. Australian consumer group Choice even has a petition it’s encouraging people to sign.
As Trish from the ADA explains ‘we are not advocating against copyright, we just want copyright that works.’