The Government has announced a number of significant copyright reforms, including provisions that allow for “format shifting” of material such as music, without providing any form of compensation for songwriters and other copyright owners.
It is a move that has disappointed both publishers and the music collecting society, APRA/AMCOS, who have long been arguing for a levy on recording media to provide payment to rights owners, similar to the systems operating in 40 other countries around the world.
APRA/AMCOS Chief Executive Brett Cottle said: “We are extremely disappointed that the Government has apparently chosen to allow private copying without providing for any financial return to copyright owners. We had argued, along with many other organizations including the Music Managers Forum and Screenrights, in favour of a more liberalised copying regime - but only in company with a statutory licence fee built into the cost of hardware and software used to copy copyright material (eg, iPods and CDRs).”
Cottle said, the Government's decision would arouse considerable disappointment and alarm both in Australia and internationally.
“It is doubtful that the decision is consistent with Australia's international treaty obligations,” he said.
Norm Lurie, Chairman of the Australian Music Publishers Association Limited echoed this concern. “Setting up a system of payment for rights owners when their work is copied is not only fair, it has been proven workable in countries across the globe, including most European territories.”
However, Lurie did add that the publishers are pleased with the Government's proposed initiative to help them close down illegal websites.
In its press release heralding the changes, the Government stated that it would provide new enforcement measures to combat copyright piracy, including on-the-spot fines, proceeds of crime remedies, and a change in presumptions in litigation to make it easier to establish copyright piracy.
In addition to this, research will be undertaken by the Australian Institute of Criminology on the nature and the extent of piracy and counterfeiting in Australia and how best to respond to the problem.
The proposed changes to the law also include new exceptions allowing schools, universities, libraries and other cultural institutions to use copyright material for non-commercial purposes.
“There are already licences in place that allow for the educational use of copyright material in exchange for a fee to the rights owners,” Cottle said. “We are not yet sure how these proposed new exceptions would work with this licensing system.”
The Government has stated that a draft exposure Bill including these and other reforms will be released in the near future to enable further consultation with stakeholders.