Copyright Review will be published by March



news The Attorney-General’s Department has stated that it believes the Government has an obligation to publish by the end of February the full report which the Australian Law Reform Commission has painstakingly generated over the past several years into whether the Copyright Act is adequate to handle the new digital environment.

On 29 June 2012, the previous Labor Administration asked the ALRC to consider whether exceptions and statutory licences under the ageing Copyright Act 1968 were adequate and appropriate in the new digital environment of the Internet and whether further exceptions should be recommended.

The ALRC’s inquiry was opened following the Internet piracy High Court case between content owners and Internet service provider iiNet. After the court judgement, which was broadly unfavourable to the film and TV studios which had brought the action, the then-Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft had argued the Government should take legislative action on the issue.

The ALRC subsequently separately released an issues paper and discussion paper on the issue to the public, receiving a huge number of submissions (860) on the issue from the public and conducting some 109 consultations with stakeholders. It also briefly opened a very limited public discussion forum on the issue.

On 29 November, the ALRC delivered the final report on the issue, Copyright and the Digital Economy, to the Attorney-General, as required by the terms of reference. The report will likely act as a landmark document which will help the Federal Government form policy on a wide range of matters with relation to copyright and intellectual property law — such as fair use provisions, re-broadcasting, Internet piracy and more.

However, new Attorney-General George Brandis has not committed to releasing the report publicly. In addition, Brandis has consistently, over a period of several years, refused to comment on Coalition policy on areas relating to intellectual property.

On 17 December, Delimiter sought access to the full Copyright and the Digital Economy report under Freedom of Information laws.

In a response issued last week (PDF), AGD acting assistant secretary Douglas Rutherford noted that he had decided to grant full access to the report. However, Rutherford added that he had decided to defer access to the document until close of business on Thursday, 27 February under certain provisions of the FOI Act.

“The document you have sought was prepared for presentation to Parliament with the intention that it be made publicly available,” wrote Rutherford. “This report, titled ‘Copyright and the Digital Economy’, was delivered by the Australian Law Reform Commission to the Attorney-General on 2 December 2013.”

“Under section 23 of the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996, the Attorney-General must cause each report and interim report of the Australian Law Reform Commission on a matter that is the subject of a reference to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the Attorney-General receives it. As a result, it is anticipated that this report will be tabled in both Houses of Parliament on, or before, Thursday 27 February.”

Delimiter has chosen not to ask for an internal departmental appeal of Rutherford’s decision. However, if the report is not published by the end of February, Delimiter intends to seek an appeal to the Australian Information Commissioner, as the beginning of March falls within the 60 day time limit for appeals to the Australian Information Commission of FOI requests.

The document is not the only one of its kind relevant to Australia’s technology sector that the current Coalition Government has not yet committed to releasing. On 20 December, for example, Health Minister Peter Dutton noted that he had received a report reviewing the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records project. However, Dutton did not commit to releasing the report publicly. Delimiter is also seeking access to that report under Freedom of Information laws.

This will be a critical document that will help shape Copyright legislation and policy in future. It should be publicly released as soon as possible. Given that amount of public and corporate interest in this report, that should be obvious. There is a very high degree of public interest in gaining open access to this report.


  1. Can we all agree that current Copyright law is a joke that only benefits the greedy and large corporations like Disney? Anyone who thinks that Life + 70 Years or 95 years for group works is an appropriate length for Copyright is either a member of the MPAA or RIAA, Rupert Murdoch, Bob Iger or clinically insane (or a mix of the above).

    Here’s my proposal for Copyright: maximum term of 20 years, no ifs, ands or buts. If you think 20 years isn’t good enough, may I point you towards George Lucas and J.K. Rowling? Lucas had already made millions by the end of the 1980s, less than 15 years after Star Wars was first released. Rowling on the other hand published Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone in 1997, just 17 years ago. And while it can be argued that not everyone will be a millionaire on their first attempt, extending Copyright ad-infinitum to generate as much personal profit as possible is both selfish and greedy. Works entering the public domain do not prevent the original author or authors from generating a profit, it just allows others to create new works from their original.

    In addition, I believe remixing or adapting Copyrighted works should be acceptable under fair use (which is apparently something we don’t even have in this country) provided it is not for profit, eg. the sort of things you see on YouTube – music videos, parodies, tributes, fan series etc. Taking small sections of Copyrighted works for the purposes of review and critique should also be permitted under fair use. Format shifting (ripping DVDs and Blu-rays to your hard drive for personal use) should no longer be illegal. It isn’t for VHSes, CDs, TV and radio recordings, so why should DVDs and Blu-rays be any different?

    Of course, none of these things will actually happen in our lifetimes. American corporations have Copyright by the bollocks and will ruthlessly attack any attempt to make it more sensible. Copyright is no longer a limited monopoly to encourage the creation of new works. It’s simply a weapon used to generate and protect the profits of the already very rich.

    • You tube and other media sharing sites are making money out of these “fair use” type works. So while the contributors of the work gets nothing, the distribution platforms are.

    • I disagree. I think Copyright should always sit with the creator, and the creator MUST be an individual or number of individuals. It should NOT be a corporation. The Copyright is then the life of the Creators OR up to X years. Where X is greater than 20 years. I don’t think 20 is enough, a creator needs time not just to get the creation current in a situation where they may need to build popularity, but also time to expand and grow the creation. I would Say maybe up to 50 Years. Although probably less. 20 years is fine for those who have runaway success or who have money behind them to build a brand, but smaller creators don’t always have that luxury.
      Corporations should only EVER be able to lease the creation, and those leases should have a fixed term agreement of say 10-20 years, after which the corporation must renegotiate. The goal of this would be to keep corporations funding creators, and to try and keep them from ripping a creator off.

      • You keep talking about brands and building the work etc etc.. That is already available (and always has been) under patent and Trademark structures (the other sides of the IP laws)

        Copyright used to be LESS than 20yrs when it was first implemented in the late 1700s and it wasn’t until the 1920’s till 1970’s that it doubled though after the 70’s it went into strange and wonderful territories of extensions where it will be over 150yrs before that work becomes part of the culture that is humanity.

        20yrs is more than adequate and in fact I would even consider a 10year period that can be extended to 10yrs but only if it can be shown that it is in the interest of the creator to extend it and not detrimental to the public at large.

  2. It would be fantastic to have commenters who are hostile to the present (potentially inadequate) copyright protections declare the IP they have created as it seems most people who are against the protection of these rights usually have no such property to protect and therefore no empathy with/for those that do.

    • You are absolutely correct, we don´t allow people to comment on our Laws against Murder, Rape, and Theft, unless those people are murderers, rapists and thieves, so why should this be any different?

      Also, fantastic of you to both not state your real name nor list even one piece of your own IP, fantastic indeed.

      • People who’s rights are being threatened and murderers, rapists and thieves. Lovely comparison.

        • Our rights are being threatened too Guest. This is a situation in which 2 parties have rights. My right to do what I want with things I own (copy them and sell them perhaps), and a content producers right to be paid for their creative endeavors.

          I support some level of copyright; but not for duration’s exceeding my lifetime, and indeed the lifetime of every human being on the planet.

          Personally I’d love to see terms of 10 years or so; but not being a content producer that relies upon copyright (explicitly) to get paid, you are right that I see less value in it. Were it not the case; and that I did rely on copyright to enforce ownership and maintain profits; in my industry (IT – specifically programming) – I wouldn’t see profits on products older than 15 years.

          Finally, why must we declare our interest (as in copyrights) in order to have an opinion on this topic? The point that the poster replying to you was making; is that we are “the public” we are the ones allowing you to restrict our freedoms and rights so that we may in time be enriched by access to your works – in time released to the public domain. It is our rights being infringed so that our culture may be encouraged to grow.

          • You have no “right” to the IP of someone else.

            The only “right” you have is to access/use that IP or not, or to pay the price asked by the owner of that IP or not (whether the IP owner has contracted an agent to market that IP or not).

            All the rights are with the IP creator.

            Demanding someone hand over their property for anything other than what the owner demands sounds like theft or extortion. If you don’t like the price or conditions – don’t access the IP… simple. There will always be someone else to create a competing product if the demand is that high (or you could simply go without).

            Mothers need to not give in so easily to their kids’ demands when they throw tantrums.

          • Actually, rights belong to the holder, not specifically the creator. Something that is frequently overlooked, or glossed over in attempting to paint any form of infringement as stealing food from the table…

            Or the patently ludicrous suggestions to somehow “go elsewhere” when there is no elsewhere, or simply detach yourself from the world of royalty content.

            All very easy to claim it’s hurting the IP creator. Couldn’t be further from the truth.

            That it is, indeed almost always never the creator and almost always a label or distributor in today’s market. And they are rather keen to continue to extort the market.

            It’s a far cry from what Copyright was supposed to achieve. Like Intellectual Property claims, almost all rights exist now, to use as a bludgeon and to maximise profit. It has precious little to do with protecting the artist.

            Sure, we can simply not consume music, or theatre, or film. We can return to the trees and grunt a lot.

            Or we can have a mature conversation about the Copyright Act and how it can better serve both the original creator (rather than just the owner) and the end consumer.

          • Once again, the BIG BUSINESS red herring.

            The only way a corporation can gain the rights to a work or IP is to have them assigned (to whatever extent) by the IP creator. Once again – their right to do as they wish with their property. This is usually done for a fee/income and because the creator does not have the resources to market the IP in a manner they wish it to be marketed.

            Songwriters assign rights to record labels to get their songs marketed beyond their own capabilities. The label earns an income and the artist earns whatever they have negotiated (fame or fortune or nothing if they negotiate poorly). Suggesting that it is correct to disregard the wishes of the IP creator when it comes to their own, unique creation, is to disregard their rights in favour of…?

            And then – if you are looking for how this right looks when it is written down.

            Article 27.

            (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

          • Article 27 – Universal Declaration of Human Rights

            Everyone has the right *freely* to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

            Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

            Emphasis mine.

            Care to explain why you didn´t post the FULL text?

            Or, why you still haven´t posted a single IP you created?

          • Which conveniently ignores that IP and Rights can be held by a corporation, and not just a person, and spins it to be the original artists fault for being so silly as to hand it over.

            Also you misquote me by suggesting it’s somehow also the fault of a rights holder exercising their rights.

            Obviously it’s all everyone else’s fault. Couldn’t possibly be a system that has been fine-tuned over decades to ensure rights transition to corporations, to maximise profit.

            Also the universal declaration quote is hilarious. In what fashion does that have anything to do with the Copyright Act? Or even the topic, at all?

            There is no free speech in Australia. None of that has any meaning here.

          • Why are you still commenting without listing IP you have created? Why do you think the conditions you have set for others do not apply to yourself?

            IP rights are *not* inalienable rights. The only reason why IP rights exist is because people without IP, Politicians and the voting public, decided to give rights to IP creators. Those rights have been changed in the past by people who are not IP creators, and they will be changed in the future by people who do not create IP.

            We created IP rights, and when we see things like the TPP attempting to remove Drugs from the Public Domain so that the sick can be gouged for profit we tend to have an opinion.

            Attempting to stifle conversation on the release of a Government report by diverting the conversation to who should be allowed to comment is not clever and only cements the low opinion I have of those Multinational Corporate IP Holders who are corrupting our elected officials.

          • I never said I want to take anything physical or any information from another entity without compensation, or consent.

            Please do not straw man my statement.

            My problem is the restriction of my rights to information and objects in my possession that exceed what I feel is reasonable.

            I don’t know why you want the right to dictate to me what I do with my possessions for life+75 years.

            I find that the outrageous situation where someone is enforcing their will over someone else’s physical property only exists when enforcing copyright on consumers. A complete lack of copyright (which I do not condone) would have less restrictions on an individual’s property in the manner that your straw man implied.

  3. The problem isn’t Copyright, it’s who the ‘owner’ for that copyright, is.

    Many moons ago, Copyright existed to protect works, for the creator of said works. It wasn’t overly complicated. You mark an original composition or work that you have a genuine claim to, and job done.

    It protected the Artist. Meant they could charge royalties and so forth, if you wanted to use that specific composition or work; it didn’t prevent the exchange of art, music and so forth, rather it simply meant the rights holder could clothe and feed themselves..

    Granted, a little more to it than that, and IANAL, but that’s the basic concept.

    However, that all changed as Artists and content creators handed (or through contract lost all right to) content and created works, which become held by a label or brand. It was a gradual thing that is now almost entirely prevalent.

    So now you have a bunch of very wealthy organisations who ‘own’ the rights to all manner of media. And they are now pushing to have very draconian laws commissioned.

    The problem has never been Copyright, so much as who holds it. The artist no longer generally has any right, most of the income goes to labels or brands and the entire system is incredibly corrupt.

    You only have to look at the thousands of illegitimate claims to content on Youtube to see the entire industry is full of profiteering enterprises. There’s a huge business in ‘rights management’ and everyone wants their cut.

    Sure, people are freely uploading content they don’t own; but then a lot of people have all permissions required and yet are still being hit with often baseless claims.

    I would love to see a return to original creators holding rights, and enterprises having the ability to make money from that, but not own it. A perpetual licence to sell, if you will.. you can sell, but never own. It shifts where the ownership is, and means the entire system is much harder to game, or use as a blunt weapon to make cash.

    Of course, this is such a broken system now, with so much money changing hands, that such a simple solution is all but implausible.

    The review will be interesting to see, but I wager strongly that it’ll simply rubber stamp the current broken state of affairs, rather than address what has become a very litigious, corrupt model.

Comments are closed.