Copyright Reform Process Begins Down Under… And They're Actually Asking Good Questions

from the they-did-what-now? dept

Australia’s been an interesting country to follow on the copyright front. In terms of court decisions, there have been some good ones and some awful ones. On the lawmaking front, we’ve seen ridiculous ideas floated and good ones as well. The current regime is, unfortunately, supporting some of the bad parts of the TPP, but the Australian Parliament has argued for rejecting ACTA. All in all, it’s a mixed bag.

However, Australia is about to undergo a copyright reform process, with the Australian Law Reform Commission focusing on how copyright reform should work in the digital economy, and releasing a very encouraging set of questions that it is seeking to answer as a part of the process. Unlike the typical “and just how awesome is copyright?” type of questions we see in some other places, the ALRC’s questions raise many of the key issues — noting that copyright law absolutely has an impact on the introduction of new and innovative business models and that it “imposes unnecessary costs or inefficiencies on creators or those wanting to access or make use of copyright material.”

Furthermore, it has some specifics that show whoever put together the questions has a pretty deep understanding of some of the key upcoming issues, including how copyright law should handle things like caching and cloud computing. There’s a push among copyright holders to change or clarify laws to say that temporary or cached copies can violate copyright, but that that leads to some serious problems for all sorts of online activities. Some of the ALRC’s questions show a recognition of the potential problem:

Question 3. What kinds of internet-related functions, for example caching and indexing, are being impeded by Australia’s copyright law?

Question 4. Should the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) be amended to provide for one or more exceptions for the use of copyright material for caching, indexing or other uses related to the functioning of the internet? If so, how should such exceptions be framed?

Question 5. Is Australian copyright law impeding the development or delivery of cloud computing services?

Question 6. Should exceptions in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) be amended, or new exceptions created, to account for new cloud computing services, and if so, how?

There’s also a whole series of questions looking at how private copying should be dealt with, as well as “online use for social, private or domestic purposes.” A few more of the questions:

Question 7. Should the copying of legally acquired copyright material, including broadcast material, for private and domestic use be more freely permitted?

Question 11. How are copyright materials being used for social, private or domestic purposes—for example, in social networking contexts?

Question 12. Should some online uses of copyright materials for social, private or domestic purposes be more freely permitted? Should the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) be amended to provide that such use of copyright materials does not constitute an infringement of copyright? If so, how should such an exception be framed?

The questions even specifically call out how samples, remixes and mashups should be handled. I doubt that the majority of US politicians even know what any of those three things are.

Furthermore, the questions explore known issues with copyright law today, such as how to deal with libraries, archives and orphan works (though we still think they should be referred to as hostage works). Towards the end, there are a whole bunch of questions around fair dealing (what Australia currently has) and fair use. They specifically ask if Australia should switch from fair dealing — with its specific exceptions to copyright law — to fair use, with its much more broad and flexible look at whether or not uses should be allowed without permission.

Who knows how this will turn out in the long run, but from a starting point, it certainly looks like the ALRC is actually asking a lot of the right questions, rather than trodding down the well-worn path of simply expanding copyright law over and over again. Of course, the really tragic part is that if Australia does sign onto ACTA and the TPP, they may not be able to make many of the changes suggested by these questions. That’s one of the major concerns with both agreements. They lock governments into certain ways that copyright law must act, and it wouldn’t allow the kinds of exceptions that these kinds of questions would likely lead to. That’s one of the reasons why we’re so worried about both agreements. They don’t necessarily change the laws today in some places (in others, they make some changes), but the real problem is they lock in clearly broken parts of the system and make it impossible for them to evolve. Clearly some people in Australia recognize the problems with copyright law in the digital age — but ACTA and TPP might limit their ability to fix those problems.

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Comments on “Copyright Reform Process Begins Down Under… And They're Actually Asking Good Questions”

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Anonymous Coward says:

when a country’s Attorney General simply signs up for stuff, regardless of the consequences, that no one else in government apparently knows about until after the event, what hope is there of any of this even being discussed, let alone going through? considering where the majority of government (prime minister) funding comes from, this is doomed to failure

Anonymous Coward says:

I think that the list of question is more the result of the old “public participation” rather than any great interest in the subject. A couple of bright eyed and bushy tailed yung’uns in the office, and away ya go.

I think mostly it gives the copyright holders a chance to explain why much of this would be negative, and in a country like Australia that has to work hard to protect it’s artists (small economy issues), they are unlikely to open the flood gates.

Nice questions, but you are unlikely to enjoy the answers.

Richard (profile) says:


Unfportunately history suggests that it will come to nothing. We’ve already had TWO such studies in the UK (Hargreaves and Gowers).

All the good things were shouted down by the rabid IP lobby and the only thing that actually happened was the DEA which was almost entirely a disaster.

(There was one good bit in the DEA – relating to orphan works – but it got struck out in response to the professional photgraphers lobby. Funny how their 5000 strong petition was responded to and the 30000 strong petition over 3 strikes was more or less ignored.)

surfer (profile) says:

opt-in copyright

if we could simply go with an opt-in copyright, and severe fines for mis-representing copyright (think bogus DMCA takedowns), copyright would fix itself.

make the cost of opt-in, say $10USD, and misrepresenting copyright fines beginning at $500USD, the system would fix itself.

the big content cartels have to pay for their copyrights, with that comes self-policing, no more ‘do my dirty work for me to prop up a broken business model’

infringement notices must come with a copy of the registered copyright, and misrepresentations are immediately fined. and fines are matched by ContentID, file a claim, don’t own the copyright, your response would be a fine, which could go towards paying for ContentID system.

proof of infringement beyond a doubt, fines related would kill alot of bullshit surrounding copyright already.

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