news The government has announced proposed changes that are designed to simplify and modernise Australia’s copyright laws.
The draft amendments to the Copyright Act 1968 are aimed to reduce the regulatory burden on the disability sector, libraries, archives and educational and cultural institutions.
The changes will ensure these stakeholders and the wider Australian community have reasonable access to copyright material, said the Department of Communications and the Arts (DCA) in a statement.
The proposed changes will also simplify the Act through a number of measures.
Firstly, streamlining the educational statutory licence provisions to make it easier for educational institutions and copyright collecting societies to agree on licensing arrangements for the copying and communication of copyright material.
“Simple, clear rules” will also be provided for libraries, archives and “key” cultural institutions to make preservation copies of copyright material.
The terms of protection for unpublished works will be aligned with published works to give libraries, archives and other cultural institutions greater opportunities to use, and provide public access to, unpublished works.
Furthermore, search engines, universities and libraries will be provided with ‘safe harbour’ protection if they comply with conditions aimed at reducing online copyright infringement.
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) – a non-profit national organisation that promotes digital freedom, access and privacy – commented on the draft proposals, saying it in particular welcomed the proposed extension in the safe harbour provisions.
EFA said, however, that it was “disappointed” at the lack of “meaningful progress” on the introduction of a broad flexible fair use provision, as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission in its November 2013 report on Copyright and the Digital Economy.
“A broad flexible fair use exception is a well-overdue reform that is critical to ensuring Australia is able to benefit fully from digital innovation by introducing much-needed flexibility within the law that will allow new technologies and services to be developed and brought to market in Australia,” the EFA said
The EFA cited its Chair, David Cake, as saying, “Australia’s Copyright Act is outdated and no longer fit for purpose in the digital age. A broad flexible fair use exception is central to copyright law in the United States, Singapore, Israel and other nations that are leading the world in digital innovation. If the government is serious about digital innovation, they need to move to implement fair use … without further delay.”
The government has now made the draft amendments open for public comment. Comments should be made by 5.00 pm (AEST) on Friday, 12 February 2016.