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.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2017 @ 9:29am

    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.

    Does anyone know what this statement means? Because if the authors can't be traced then it is, by definition, impossible to return money to them...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2017 @ 9:43am

      Re:

      I believe it means that the money is supposed to go back to schools and universities if they money they paid doesn't go to the owners of the copyright.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2017 @ 9:51am

      Re:

      Why bother to find an author when you can say they're "untraceable" and keep all the money for yourself?

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

    • identicon
      Canuck, 28 Apr 2017 @ 5:27pm

      Re:

      Reading comprehension fail. You can't "return" money to authors when the money didn't come from them. The funds in question should've been returned to the source, e.g. the schools/universities.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 27 Apr 2017 @ 9:44am

    Anomalies of course. Maybe go the Kenyan (was it Kenya?) route and scrap the agency and replace it with something equal hoping it's going to work this time?

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 27 Apr 2017 @ 10:24am

    Modern business ethics... or lack thereof

    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.

    Sounds like some execs earned themselves a bonus! Say, $11M? ;)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2017 @ 10:25am

    When your income is solely dependent on copyright law, there is only way you want to see that law change, and that is not in the direction of fair use.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2017 @ 12:10pm

    Proper names and recent pictures of top three executives at Australia's Copyright Agency please.

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

    • icon
      Daniel Audy (profile), 27 Apr 2017 @ 12:26pm

      Re:

      Did you consider reading the fucking article?

      It has the name and picture of the Copyright Agency chairman in the middle of the article and the name of the guy running it day to day which can be matched up with a picture with a trivial google search. I know you just wanted to sound tough on the internet but good god the level of lazy stupidity here is astounding when you've got access to a vast repository of knowledge at your fingertips and could have accessed it with the same amount of effort as your comment took.

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

      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 27 Apr 2017 @ 3:40pm

        Re: Re:

        Less, since posting a comment took at least 102 interactions with the user interface of his computer, and going to the article would only take one.

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

    • identicon
      tracyanne, 27 Apr 2017 @ 11:15pm

      There ya go.

      Mr Williams, who joined the Copyright Agency’s Board in January, is a former Chief Executive at each of NewsCorp Australia, FOXTEL, Fox Studios Australia, the Australian Film Commission, Southern Star Entertainment and Musica Viva Australia and was also a senior executive at the ABC.

      https://www.copyright.com.au/2015/06/kim-williams-appointed-as-chair-of-the-copyright-agency/

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

  • icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 27 Apr 2017 @ 12:52pm

    Careful Glynn

    You don't want to be censored by them, for being mean to collecting societies by telling the truth about their actions, with sources!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2017 @ 7:54pm

    How is it that every single copyright agency across the planet, responsible for giving money to authors and artists, happens to hire precisely the people who are the shittiest at their job?

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 27 Apr 2017 @ 8:14pm

      Re:

      You're error is assuming their job is to "give money to authors and artists". Ask them - they'll tell you (after a little truth serum) that it's to line their pockets with free money.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2017 @ 3:39am

    since when has a single dime/cent gone to the artists from any court case that has been won? it always stays with the agencies so as to be able to pay for the salary increases the bosses want! if only the artists themselves would come to their senses, see what sort of plums they are being made to be, perhaps then there would be some common sense entered into the equation and the constant bullshit that is spun would be realised for what it is, just that!!

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

  • identicon
    pauline cameron, 12 Jul 2017 @ 2:45pm

    The issue of plagiarism is a very serious one. I am not surprised that a copyright company has decided to raise this question for a public discussion. I am sure that Australia’s copyright agency needs to create a site, and on <a href="http://onlineloanservice.com.au/">this site</a> they would also help their clients to set goals and reach them. I think that there is no matter where the money is coming from. The most important thing is that they would be spent on a greater use. Thanks for this very refreshing article.

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


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