Open statement in response to the Australian Screen Association

It was recently brought to our attention that the Australian Screen Association (formerly known as AFACT) has been providing the Attorney-General’s department with a ‘very poignant critique of the politics and demands of Australia's vocal minority (specifically ….  the ADA).’ 

That a lobby group, predominantly acting for US based movie companies and their Australian subsidiaries, labels the interests of Australian schools (independent, catholic and public), universities, libraries, galleries, museums, charitable organisations, tech companies and consumers as ‘minority interests’ does strike us as ironic.  Leaving that aside however, we are primarily concerned that the ASA has fundamentally misunderstood our advocacy work, and is communicating those misunderstandings. 

The ADA advocates for balanced copyright law that supports education and culture, encourages innovation and protects creators.  We do not, and never have, support piracy.  We do not believe, as the article Mr Gane attached may have implied, that ‘copyright is dead’. Indeed our work in copyright is motivated by a desire to ensure that Australia has a balanced copyright regime that is fit for purpose in the digital age.  We agree with the Attorney-General when he remarks that the Copyright Act is:

‘overly long, unnecessarily complex, often comically outdated and all too often, in its administration, pointlessly bureaucratic.’ 

Our primary advocacy work is focussed around the recent ALRC recommendations, namely:

  •  the introduction of fair use; and
  •  reform of the statutory licences.

While piracy is not a main focus for us, we have raised the concerns of our members when asked.  We would hope that any response to internet piracy:

  • is effective and proportional;
  • recognises that consumers are stakeholders and is the result of a process that includes the input of consumer representatives (for example input from a body such as Choice or ACCAN);
  • ensures proper implementation of the safe harbour regime in accordance with our international obligations (including extending it to cover universities, schools, libraries and internet intermediaries); and
  • includes a commitment to increasing the opportunities for all Australians to access cultural works legally and, where commercially provided, at a reasonable price.

We also believe that if there is a greater emphasis on enforcement of copyright law then those laws must be sensible and capable of being complied with.  Replacing the current technologically obsolete and needlessly narrow copyright exceptions with a ‘fair use’ exception would do much to increase coherence and practicality of our current copyright regime, while ensuring that ‘piracy’ remains an infringement. 

Our positions on major issues, our submissions to government and blog posts are all available on www.digital.org.au.  We are also more than happy to respond to direct queries, and indeed would welcome the opportunity to discuss matters at first instance rather than becoming aware of misunderstanding through a journalist’s FOI requests. 

*The emails in question were acquired by journalist Josh Taylor under an FOI request.  The article that he wrote, linking to the documents, can be found at http://www.zdnet.com/film-lobby-emails-detail-persistence-for-copyright-crackdown-7000028324/