Networks blast copyright recommendations

Networks and producers have blasted a Productivity Commission Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements, which recommends adopting the US system of fair use, allowing the use of copyrighted material so long as it is fair, taking into account its purpose and the amount copied.

It also recommends expanding safe harbours to include universities and schools, circumventing geo-blocking where material is available overseas at overseas prices, and expediting copyright enforcement in the courts.

Free TV CEO Brett Savill said “Free TV opposes the replacement of the existing clear and certain fair dealing exceptions with a US style one-size fits all provision that is aimed at serving the interests of overseas based big tech companies. In addition, the safe harbour recommendations are out of touch with how the Copyright Act is operating in the online environment.

“Australian copyright law provides the fundamental framework that incentivises the production of this highly valued local content, and enables broadcasters and other content industry businesses to invest in the industry,” he said.

“The availability of cheaper or more readily available content from other markets is not a substitute for an entire local content industry, or the cultural value it holds. Local Australian creative industries enrich our society, reflect and contribute to our sense of identity as a nation, and also play an important role in attracting tourism, migration and business to Australia. The recommendations in this report put all of this at risk.”

The report also wants to make it to be easier to make use of “orphan works” for whom the copyright owners cannot be found. It says the National Film and Sound Archive has told it that 20 per cent of its holdings are in a legal “no man’s land”, meaning it can’t use them to celebrate Australia’s heritage without tracking down owners who can’t be found. It also criticised the Copyright Agency, claiming it is not open about what they do with the funds they collect on behalf of different classes of rights holders.

Meanwhile Screen Producers Australia CEO Matthew Deaner said, “The Productivity Commission’s final report, tabled in Parliament today by the Government, maintains the Commission’s ideological attack on content. The Commission gave little consideration to content owner’s views in its issues paper and draft report. With a tin ear to the creative community’s concerns, the Commission rehashed its reckless recommendations with little revision.

“Ultimately, the Commission idolised ideological arguments, sacrificing content at the altar of an economic orthodoxy. This report is an insult to the Australian creative communities.

“An expedited court process to recover damages for copyright infringement is useless if there’s no copyright left to protect. Copyright provides the framework for our industry’s investment in content. These reckless recommendations will unravel copyright’s carefully balanced incentives to invest in content, to secure international financing, to tell and sell Australian stories on screen. Without these incentives, there will be less Australian content made. We will all suffer.”

The government will respond to the report in the middle of next year.

Source: Fairfax


  1. The most important part of the productivity commission’s report for me is around geoblock avoidance. The networks cannot claim that Australian citizens getting cheaper (or free in a lot of cases, after the cost of unblocker/VPN) access to UK and US content to view it at the same time citizens in those countries do puts Australia’s cultural identity at risk. It’s not Australian content.

    As for Australians being able to view Australian content anywhere in the world, I accept that puts the resale of that content at risk, but you’ll just have to cut a few executives won’t you? Start with the “distribution company”. They don’t actually do anything. The “distribution” of the content is already taken care of with Plus7, TenPlay and 9now. Add a premium tier to start charging for ad-free access to the content and lots of people would be happy to pay to make it ad-free.

    As for the…

  2. I don’t mind the concept of copyright to protect the original content creator but it should remain with them. It shouldn’t be owned by companies. When they die it should become public domain. I don’t see why spouses, siblings and children benefit from someones creativity that they may not even know.
    Don’t get me started on “actors” that think they are part of the copyright deal.

  3. So, as well as continually asking the govt for discounts and handouts to support their businesses, the networks and producers also want govt protectionism to maintain the outrageous prices that Australians are forced to pay for overseas content (or wait months/years for some network to get around to showing a couple of eps of a drama series before pulling it due to “disappointing ratings”).

    Let’s all just go back to the Age of Steam when people knew their place and didn’t know what they were missing out on.

    • It’s usually just called “gatekeeper mentality” – they’ve been in control of the old gate for so long that, when people start bypassing the gate, they do everything but build the sort of gate people will use…

      (I don’t 100% agree with db below – ditch copyright and “the big businesses and shareholders” will have a field day at the expense of “creatives” before anyone else can – but there certainly needs to be some sort of rethink & limitations on what those rights are, who can hold them, and how long they last…)

      • Secret Squïrrel

        Good analogy. The thought of the gatekeeper building an ever longer wall to try to force people to continue to use their increasingly pointless gate is particularly apt.

        And agree with your second para. Copyright is important and should be protected but it should ideally last slightly less than forever.

  4. Copyright is outdated. It protects big business and shareholders, not creatives. If there are people out there who want to create content, they will find a way to do it, and a new economy will be born.

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