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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Alana (profile), Aug 27th, 2012 @ 8:13pm

    Now if only we could see that kind of commitment in New Zealand. We've taken it up the [redacted] for a while now, especially given the three strikes regime. By the way, any updates on it's effectiveness?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2012 @ 9:17pm

    Trodding? Is that a word?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2012 @ 9:24pm


    Yeah, it's what you get when you take the "ho" out of "hotrodding".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    MadderMak (profile), Aug 27th, 2012 @ 9:41pm


    no - it's a descriptive frame-of-mind used to picture the progress of most copyright-maximists (is that even a word?) along a regulatory capture path.

    I imagined a march of Trolls, Gnomes and assorted misfits towards a cliff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Wally (profile), Aug 27th, 2012 @ 9:45pm


    *facepalm of headache and frustration*

    Here, I will spare you the trouble:

    It's an English verb meaning "to walk heavily upon".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Pixelation, Aug 27th, 2012 @ 10:26pm

    "...And They're Actually Asking Good Questions"

    Why do I have the feeling they will ignore good answers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2012 @ 10:42pm

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Chargone (profile), Aug 27th, 2012 @ 10:45pm


    i still find it insulting at minimum that they shoved that copyright-law change through under urgency in a session meant to be dealing with the Christchurch earthquakes... (meaning the public never got to hear about it until it was done) after the previous attempt fell over due to public protest...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Alana (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:00am

    Re: Re:

    Agreed. It was shoehorned into law. I want to punch someone. Preferably the person who approved it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 1:43am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:25am

    Re: Re:

    wasn't that NZ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Richard (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 2:38am


    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.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Bengie, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 4:08am


    #7... go go go go!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    surfer (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 6:11am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 7:44am

    Re: opt-in copyright

    How about opt out copyright for ten years with opt in for $10 for another ten years and you can do that ten times.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 7:45am

    Re: Re:

    So you can Troll by trodding?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 7:53am

    I'm sure the MPAA can answer all those questions for them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    dennis deems, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 8:15am

    Re: Re:

    I think his point is that "trod" is a past tense of "tread". The present participle is "treading".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    surfer (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: opt-in copyright

    I don't like the idea of 100 years copyright, even if its opt-in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    shawnhcorey (profile), Aug 28th, 2012 @ 10:43am

    Only One

    The only one good question that can be asked is: How soon can we get rid of copyright completely?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 8:59pm

    Down under, eh... I can imagine darryl reappearing to assert that he is the average Australian and average Australians want everything to do with copyright to be done harsher.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    Ninja (profile), Aug 30th, 2012 @ 4:33am

    Unfortunately we should expect a lot of lobbying with lies and bogus numbers from our well known morons at the MAFIAA.

    I hope they can't fuck up the process too much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Hide this ad »
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Hide this ad »
Techdirt Insider Chat
Hide this ad »
Recent Stories
Advertisement - Amazon Prime Music
Hide this ad »


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.