Copyright Reform Process Begins Down Under... And They're Actually Asking Good Questions
from the they-did-what-now? dept
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?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 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?
Question 7. Should the copying of legally acquired copyright material, including broadcast material, for private and domestic use be more freely permitted?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.
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?
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.