A wrap up of Copyright 20/20 – the ADA Copyright Forum 2019

It’s been just over a week since the ADA Copyright Forum 2019, and our 20th Anniversary celebrations, and we’re all still digesting the amazing copyright discussions it provoked.

The day’s theme was Copyright 20/20, inspired by the ADA’s 20th Anniversary – looking back at the past 20 years of reform to find lessons for the next 20. The importance of activism, data and cooperation to the past and future of copyright reform were themes that emerged on the day.

We started the theme strongly with a keynote by Professor Tom Cochrane on the history of the ADA, and why a cross-sectoral advocacy body championing the public interest in copyright debates was needed at all. Tom recounted the reform and lobbying activities over the last 20 years and how the ADA managed to make a much bigger impact than its size and resources might have suggested. You can read Tom’s full presentation on the blog here.

We then moved on to a global perspective on the ongoing influences on copyright reform, with Julia Reda from the EU Parliament speaking about reforms that were being debated in the EU, and were passed last week (Julia had to present remotely so she could make the vote). Julia raised the alarm bells about the reforms, which she said were running the risk of making the internet more like cable TV. Reda argued that the EU Copyright Directive’s attempts to regulate big platforms have significant and detrimental impacts on smaller platforms. While there are plenty of supporters, Europe has also seen significant activism in response – a reminder that individual and sector advocacy is crucial in shaping copyright reform. Read more about the reforms and the concerned raised about them here.

This was followed by a live keynote by Dr Michael Geist of Ottawa University, with a message of how the future can be informed by the past. Michael focused his presentation on the history of reforms in Canada over the last decade, and the hot debate that has involved speculation, assumption and even misinformation about their motivations and effects. The main message coming from his presentation was the importance of data to inform strong copyright policy – that it’s only with transparency and real numbers that we can have any idea of the true impact of past reforms and the best direction for future legislation.

To continue the focus on important lessons for the next 20 years, the day continued with a fascinating talk by Juliet Rogers from the Australian Society of Authors with Professor Kimberlee Weatherall and Associate Professor Rebecca Giblin on how we can do copyright reform better. A strong message here was the need to shift the future copyright debate beyond ‘us vs them’ rhetoric if we want to have meaningful reforms that would reinvigorate our creative sectors. The panel called for more space for creators’ voices in the reform process and better outcomes for creators.

For a more immediate discussion of possible ways forward, the day continued with a comprehensive update on the various copyright reviews ongoing in the region. The spotlight here was given to the Singaporean review, which is the most progressed of the reviews, with a list of recommendations already available. Trina Ha of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore gave us an overview of the main recommendations, which involved many excellent public interest proposals that present a model for future reform. This was followed by Emma Shadbolt, Acting Director, Domestic Copyright and the Department of Communications and the Arts, who spoke about where Australia’s Copyright Modernisation consultation is up to, and Mandy Henk of Tohatoha Aotearoa Commons, who gave a quick but insightful summary of the law reform processes in New Zealand.

To round off the day poster artist Peter Drew (the creator of the ‘Real Australians Say Welcome’ posters) shared his experiences using archival material as part of his creative practice. He showcased a number of his projects that imbue material in our national collections with contemporaneous and personal connection. The story of The Khalik Family Kite, part of a project which encourages artists to create a mythology for real multicultural Australians, is a particularly touching example. Peter was followed by documentary filmmaker Sari Braithwaite, (director of [CENSORED]) who recounted how a project to uncover the clips cut from films and television programs in Australia revealed more than a conservative approach to censorship: it was a clip show of patriarchal imaginary.

One final, fun thing that came out of the day was the launch of Copyright the Card Game – Australian Edition v1.0 which is now available from the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee website.

All in all, as usual, the Forum was a full day, with amazing speakers and insightful thoughts on the way forward for copyright reform in Australia and the future. A fitting tribute to the ADA’s 20th anniversary. We look forward to seeing you all for our 21st next year.