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.

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  1. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 3:40am

    I'd make one of my 'silly upside down people' comments, but they have a better grasp on this than the rest of the world.

    It isn't the end of rightsholders if the public regains some of the promised rights. For far to long its been the massive doom & gloom end of the world prophecies that drive legislation. It is nice to see regulatory capture hasn't gotten everyone caught up in its web.

    It would be nice if this sort of thinking based in facts & not imaginary fears would spread. The world needs to reform all of the craziness that's been built and a major point is the public should not be an afterthought. We shouldn't have people controlling ideas waiting for someone to fall into the waiting trap & spend billions over stupid things like its a black rectangle with rounded edges.

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

  2. identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting annymously, 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:01am

    But how do we get the Aussie government to even read this report?

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

  3. icon
    PaulT (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:10am

    "Copyright is broader in scope and longer in duration than needed — innovative firms, universities and schools, and consumers bear the cost."

    "Timely and cost effective access to copyright content is the best way to reduce infringement"

    Those two alone neatly state everything I've been saying for a long time, amid the usual lies and strawmen deployed to counter arguments here.

    Here's hoping honest Australians aren't met with the same rubbish in attempts to stop them from adopting sensible rules that benefit everyone - except the small number of corporations with a vested interest in the current system. I fear it may be a long battle riddled with fictions, however.

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

  4. icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:13am

    Sanity. You don't expect that often from Governments (Australia jokes aside!). Though we can expect most of the Government and the MAFIAA to promptly ignore this document regardless of how much facts are thrown in their faces.

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

  5. icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:15am

    Re:

    Disney disagree. We need moar mouses!

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:18am

    Copyright is a temporary RESTRICTION of the rights of the PUBLIC of free gathering of information.
    Apparently, this commission actually understood this and used it as a baseline for part of this report. The question is, will the Australian government do anything with this knowledge? Or will they bow down to USTR/Legacy Media and ignore it alltogether?

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:20am

    IP arrangements need to ensure that creators and inventors are rewarded for their efforts

    This is the flaw at the heart of IP, as it presumes that :- 1) The idea or scribblings have value. 2) That the owner of the IP, or whoever they sell their right to are capable of marketing real products.

    As has often been pointed out on this site execution is everything, and patents and copyright are all too often used to block better implementations of an idea or story, or extract rent from those who can execute on an idea.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:48am

    To the Australian government's credit, they've proved themselves willing to recognize that their citizenry are being forced to pay more for the same product compared to other countries without good reason - and even encouraged Australians to bypass geoblocking. The fact that this government commission has doubled down on their position and not caved to pressure is noteworthy.

    That sound you hear is Whatever angrily stroking his phallus in protest while trying not to stamp his feet.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 5:33am

    Real reform?

    Copyright is too long. It was originally 28 years, 14 years plus a non-automatically renewing extension.

    If you can't give a fixed number of years for copyright when it is initially issued, it's too long. Copyright is for the creator, not really for the heirs and the estate. Copyright was intended to force works into the public domain.

    How about this? Set it at 70 years, made up of an initial 14-year term, and four non-automatically renewing extensions. The LoC would maintain a database listing when each copyright term expires. An owner could choose whether to extend the copyright or not. Failure to do so would put the document irrevocably in the public domain. The expiration date in the database will not be a cause for reconsideration if the date is wrong, and a renewal is missed.

    Oh, and each copyrighted work is subject to the law when the copyright was first issued.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 5:53am

    *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.*

    LOL! I could point out faith-based arguments in this report all day long. You just like the conclusions because they match your own.

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

  11. icon
    PaulT (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 6:07am

    Re:

    "I could point out faith-based arguments in this report all day long. "

    But you won't, because then you'd risk getting into an honest debate and need to back up your assertions...

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 6:36am

    Re:

    Please point out the "Faith Based" portions of said report.

    I am interested in exactly what people consider to be faith based as opposed to evidence based and is there any evidence in support of .... oh shit.

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

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 7:13am

    Re:

    Because the claim that life + 70 has led to more works being produced than life + 50 is clearly backed up by evidence and not merely the claims of sockpuppets...?

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

  14. icon
    Wyrm (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 9:02am

    Re:

    Great, more of the "you're wrong but I don't need to prove it" argument.
    You know, you don't need to quote them all. Just pick a few to make your point or don't expect anyone to take you seriously.

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

  15. icon
    Who Cares (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 9:09am

    Re: Re:

    Then you'd have absolutely no problem of linking that evidence instead of blindly asserting like you do now.
    At that I rather trust the people who seem to have copious amounts of references in their rapport then a blind assertion.

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 9:41am

    Re:

    I could point out that you are a useless asshole all day long etc etc.

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

  17. icon
    MrTroy (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:30pm

    Re:

    I fear it may be a long battle riddled with fictions, however.

    My fear is that you're being overly optimistic thinking there will be a battle at all. As the commenter above you lamented, the government has to first read it, then decide it's not worth keeping an entire sector's worth of political donations, for any kind of fight to start.

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

  18. identicon
    Sambo, 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:52pm

    Quite a useful mob, the Productivity Commission

    Being one of the "upside-down people" (there you go T.A.C) I do have to agree with Mike.

    Our Productivity Commission in general produces great stuff. It's independent of Government and full of economists, statisticians, researchers and the like.

    The reports are pretty much always very well researched and completely non-partisan in their reccomendations, regardless of which 'side' of politics requested the report.

    Only a blind optimist however would trust the same politicians looking for answers to then go ahead and actually do something with the reports suggestions.

    I think it must be that the ability to totally ignore anything that just makes sense must be a prerequisite to be a serving politician.

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

  19. icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 7:35am

    Right to have it forgotten?

    The legacy holders should file a request with the appropriate EU authority to have this report "forgotten"...

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

  20. icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 10:55am

    Re: Quite a useful mob, the Productivity Commission

    Our Productivity Commission in general produces great stuff. It's independent of Government and full of economists, statisticians, researchers and the like.

    "Pah! Experts! What do they know about anything? My faith-based bullshit shouting is way more valuable!" - Politicians

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


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