by Glyn Moody

Filed Under:
australia, copyright, fair use

Wikipedians Join Push For Fair Use In Australia After Six Government Reports Recommend It

from the how-many-more-do-politicians-need? dept

People in Australia have been asking for the introduction of fair use as part of a broader copyright reform for a long time. Techdirt first wrote about it four years ago, then again last year, when the Australian Law Reform Productivity Commission produced one of the best reports ever written on the topic by a government body. Amazingly, most of its ideas, including a call for fair use, survived in the final version of that document, which appeared at the beginning of this year.

However, it turns out that those are just a few of the six Australian government reports which have recommended adopting fair use for copyright in Australia. That emerges from a new entry on the English-language Wikipedia, called "History of fair use proposals in Australia". Its appearance is not simply down to some random urge to wiki: it's part of a new campaign by Wikipedians in Australia to put pressure on the government there to bring in fair use after so many official calls to do so. A post on the Wikimedia blog explains the current copyright situation in Australia:

all copying requires permission unless you are only using an insubstantial part of a copyrighted work (which is typically very hard to judge), or the Copyright Act provides a specific exception. The most important exceptions, the fair dealing exceptions, cover research, study, criticism, review, parody, satire, reporting the news, and professional advice as long as the use is "fair". Any use not for one of these purposes will be illegal, no matter how fair or reasonable it is, unless the government introduces a specific exception for it.

The post also points out ways in which Australia suffers as a result of the lack of fair use, for example:

Australian schools end up paying millions of dollars each year to use publicly accessible online content on websites that you use at home for free. No one is asking to be paid for using these websites, and the money rarely makes it to the copyright owner. Just as importantly, the use is transformative and socially beneficial. But because the Act doesn't say such uses are allowed, payment still has to be made.

As part of the campaign to raise awareness of fair use and its benefits, Wikipedians in Australia are adding a banner on the English Wikipedia, and Electronic Frontiers Australia and the Australian Digital Alliance have also set up a new site called Fair Copyright. It would be nice to think that all this hard work would lead to the recommendations of those Australian government reports being implemented at last. But as Techdirt noted last month, the copyright industry has built up a fund of $11 million specifically to fight changes to copyright law in Australia, so we can expect fierce resistance to any such moves.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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