Top 10 developments in Australian Copyright 2014
Visitors will no longer have to wait until security are out of sight before snapping a picture of themselves in front of Blue Poles or Ned Kelly. Selfies for personal use are now cool, much to the joy of patrons. The NGA noted that young and old were surprisingly keen on selfie culture and sharing experiences, remarking that copyright laws were ‘yet to catch up’ with the digital world.
The National Library is unsurprisingly full of books, helped by the fact that a copy of all printed works published in Australia must be ‘deposited’. A bill currently before the parliament would extend that to digital works, only sligthly behind the times….
Annoyed about the geoblocks that stop Australians being able to purchase content available elsewhere in the world, or that inflate the price for Australians, we increasingly turned to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass the barriers. And while the recommendations from the IT Pricing Review haven’t been acted on, they were endorsed by the Harper Review. And at the end of the year, the Government’s own online copyright infringement FAQs (see 4) clarified the legality of bypassing geoblocks. However the practical reality may be that the service providers themselves may be moving against VPN access, with reports Netflix is clamping down on geododgers ahead of its Australian launch.
In one of those heart-warmingly amusing cases that copyright throws up so often, the artist of a giant brown milk crate sought legal advice about a proposed giant blue milk crate. Not only is it wonderful that as a country we have space to embrace two giant milk crates, it was amusing to see how long it took before anyone thought to contact the original designer of the milk crate, who has an absolutely charming story to tell.
6. We signed some Trade Agreements
Free trade agreements with Korea, Japan and China were concluded this year. While we’re yet to see the Chinese text, both the Japanese and Korean agreements again exposed problems with our approach to Intellectual Property (IP) negotiation. In the Korean agreement (KAFTA) this extended to inadequate analysis and attempts to policy launder a changes to the online copyright infringement policy.
As the Trans-Pacific Partnership (12 nation FTA) missed yet another deadline for completion in 2014, it is tempting to write it off. However the leak of the May 2014 IP chapter shows why we can’t afford to be complacent. And with a growing number of chapters closed and Inside US Trade reporting that a legal scrub (the last step in the process) is being considered, we again face the prospect that Australia’s copyright policy is likely to be contingent on an agreement about sugar and beef tariffs.
After general outcry at the proposal to tackle online copyright infringement through extending authorisation law, the government decided to implement a code under the Telecommunications Act that will see ISPs send warning notes to infringers. Annoyingly the widely supported extensions to the safe harbour schemes seemed to get lost between the first and last proposals, we hope they will re-emerge at (1).
Enabling the blind and vision impaired access to books seems fairly non-controversial, especially when you consider that currently only 5-9% of the world’s publications are in an accessible format. However removing the copyright barriers at international level was a hard fight, and it is great credit to the people and organisations involved that we finally got the Marrakesh Treaty. Australia signed it in June, and is currently working towards implementation.
After an epic survey of stakeholders and months of research, the Australian Law Reform Commission released its Copyright and the Digital Economy final report, which made several recommendations to ensure copyright remains relevant and practical. The centrepiece was a recommendation to introduce fair use, which was support by organisations from the ACCC to the National Library. It also tackled orphan works, statutory licences and the library and archive exceptions.
With all the outstanding recommendations and reviews, and as it becomes increasingly obvious that the Copyright Act is ‘overly long, unnecessarily complex, often comically outdated and all too often, in its administration, pointlessly bureaucratic’ the Attorney-General committed to a complete overhaul. While the attention this year was diverted to online infringement, next year should see the start of a major review – fun times ahead!
So where to in 2015? With the planned overhaul of the copyright act in the works, the ADA Forum will kick off the year with early bird prices available till Jan 20.
In Australia, submissions to the treaty-making process inquiry close in February, the Competition Policy Review final report lands in March and the code for online infringement is meant to be finalised by April. It should be, as always, an interesting year.
Meanwhile overseas a Macaque took a Selfie, the UK embraced parody and satire (and others), millions of little antennae couldn’t save Aereo, the US decided you could copyright an API, the EU decided that linking to websites was okay, Spain discovered that forcing people to pay for online snippets resulted in market exits, digitising books was fair use for the Hathi Trust, but Georgia State ran into some mixed results. Oh and Jeff Koons slipped in another copyright infringement claim at the end of the year, keeping him at the forefront of the appropriation art wars.
At a structural level, the body theoretically in charge of international IP spent most of the year fighting, with the Copyright Committee reaching a tentative reconciliation by year’s end. With major reviews slated in the EU, major cases progressing in the US and the increasing globalisation and technological advancement of the world markets, copyright should continue to be a fun ride.
To all our supporters/occasional readers/copyright loving fans, thanks for your company in 2014 and wishing you all the best for 2015!