Australia's Copyright Agency Keeps $11 Million Meant For Authors, Uses It To Fight Introduction Of Fair Use
from the not-very-fair dept
Even though stories of copyright collecting societies failing to distribute the monies that they collect to artists abound — we wrote about one just a few weeks ago — this doesn’t seem to discourage others from continuing to bend the rules somewhat. Here, for example, is a story from Australia, where there is a major battle to switch to a US-style fair use approach to copyright. Naturally, the affected industries there hate the idea of allowing the public a little more leeway in the use of copyright materials. So Australia’s copyright collection agency decided to build up a war-chest to lobby against such changes. The Sydney Morning Herald explains where the money for that fighting fund is coming from:
Australia’s government-mandated copyright collection agency has been diverting payments intended for journalists and authors to a [$11 million] “future fund” to fight changes to the law.
Specifically, the monies come from payments made by educational establishments in order to use orphan works. That’s a major change of the agency’s policy that was not disclosed to the Australian government’s Productivity Commission that oversees this area:
[The Copyright Agency] has been criticised in a Productivity Commission review that is before the government over the transparency of its accounts and its practice of retaining, rather than returning, millions of dollars collected from schools and universities on behalf of the owners of “orphan works” who can’t be traced.
An examination of accounts shows that in a change not disclosed to the commission or to its members in annual reports, since 2013 it has been channelling that income into a fund set up to campaign against changes to the copyright law.
Between 2013 and 2016 the fund amassed [$11 million].
In other words, schools and universities have effectively been paying to lobby against changes to Australian copyright laws that would be very much in the interest of themselves, the public, and writers, who could use copyright materials more freely under a fair use system. According to the Sydney Morning Herald article, the top three executives at Australia’s Copyright Agency are all paid around $200,000 a year to come up with these kinds of ideas. It would be interesting to know whether Australian authors consider that $600,000 well spent.