Safe harbour reforms start incremental change

The recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications on the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill, released yesterday, are an important start to incremental change for Australia’s online service providers.

The Australian Digital Alliance (ADA) welcomes the support of the Committee for the rights of Australia’s disability, education, and cultural institutions. These groups will gain great benefits from the Bill, and with these changes will be able to provide online services for the Australian community in a more certain and supportive legal environment.

However, we are disappointed that the report does not recommend the extension of Australia’s copyright safe harbours to all service providers, and we endorse the Committee’s support for ongoing review of the scheme to address outstanding issues.

“The amendments in the Bill provide an immediate fix for one of the big problems with Australia’s safe harbour regime – ensuring Australia’s schools, universities, libraries, archives, museums and disability groups have the same legal protections as commercial ISPs,” said Jessica Coates, Executive Officer of the ADA. “But it does nothing for the other big problem – ensuring our technology companies are able to compete in the global market.”

“We therefore strongly support the Committee’s statement that this should just be the first step in the reform process, and that the Government must continue to consult on solutions for Australia’s commercial online service providers.”

“Until we have complete safe harbour reform, it will be the startups that have chosen to make Australia their home who will suffer harm,” Ms Coates said. “Australian companies are being sued right now just for providing the same services consumers can already get from overseas. The next stage of review must focus on the issues of this community. Until the law changes, Australia will remain a risky place to set up a business that stores user content or allows users to post content.”

The ADA and its members endorse the Committee’s support for both the current amendments and for further reform. We look forward to continuing to work with the Government to review and update the safe harbour scheme until our copyright system truly reflects world’s best practice.