Aussie Productivity Commission Doubles Down On Fair Use And Serious Copyright & Patent Reform
from the good-for-them! dept
Back in May we were both surprised and delighted by a thorough and detailed report from the Australian Productivity Commission noting that copyright was broken and harming the public, and that it needed to be fixed — with a core focus on adding fair use (which does not exist in Australia). It similarly found major problems with the patent system. It was a pretty amazing document, full of careful, detailed analysis of the problems of both the copyright and patent systems — the kinds of things we discuss all the time around here.
Of course, it was only a “preliminary” report, and that left it open that lobbyists would swoop in and destroy the report before it became finalized. But that does not appear to have happened. The final report was released right before Christmas (the document says September 23rd on it, because that’s the date it was sent to the government, but it was only just released to the public — and since they released it under a CC-BY license, we’ve reposted the whole thing below as well). It’s a big document, clocking in at 766 pages. But the “key points” that the Productivity Commission released give you a pretty good idea of where they come down on a variety of issues — and it’s very much in line with the general thinking here at Techdirt:
- Australia?s intellectual property (IP) arrangements fall short in many ways and improvement is needed across the spectrum of IP rights.
- IP arrangements need to ensure that creators and inventors are rewarded for their efforts,
but in doing so they must:
- foster creative endeavour and investment in IP that would not otherwise occur
- only provide the incentive needed to induce that additional investment or endeavour
- resist impeding follow?on innovation, competition and access to goods and services.
- Australia?s patent system grants exclusivity too readily, allowing a proliferation of low-quality
patents, frustrating follow?on innovators and stymieing competition.
- To raise patent quality, the Australian Government should increase the degree of invention required to receive a patent, abolish the failed innovation patent, reconfigure costly extensions of term for pharmaceutical patents, and better structure patent fees.
- Copyright is broader in scope and longer in duration than needed ? innovative firms,
universities and schools, and consumers bear the cost.
- Introducing a system of user rights, including the (well-established) principles?based fair use exception, would go some way to redress this imbalance.
- Timely and cost effective access to copyright content is the best way to reduce infringement.
The Australian Government should make it easier for users to access legitimate content by:
- clarifying the law on geoblocking
- repealing parallel import restrictions on books. New analysis reveals that Australian readers still pay more than those in the UK for a significant share of books.
- Commercial transactions involving IP rights should be subject to competition law. The current exemption under the Competition and Consumer Act is based on outdated views and should be repealed.
Separately, in the “key points” section they highlight just how badly “international agreements” hinder smart copyright and patent policy — which is quite interesting, given that Australia has been very, very active in negotiations on the IP section in the TPP, as well as in the awful ACTA negotiations from a few years ago.
I’m guessing most people won’t read through the whole document — but it’s really got some great things in there. Unlike so many government reports on copyright issues, this one is careful and methodical, and actually establishes a clear framework for analyzing copyright and patents — both the benefits and faults. It also includes details of all of the evidence and data that it used. Unlike so many other government reports on copyright and patents, this one is clearly evidence-based rather than faith-based. Too many seem to work under the assumption that copyright and patents are “good” and therefore more must be “better.” Thankfully, this report is incredibly detailed and thorough, and focuses on all players in the ecosystem, including the public, whom these systems are supposed to benefit.
Honestly, there are great quotes and points on almost every page, and I could spend all day clipping out key quotes, but feel free to just dive in yourself and flip through the document below. It’s too bad that the US government is too tied to specific legacy industries to produce a document as comprehensive and useful as this one.